Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dark for 25 years, updated Met theatre debuts tonight

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Canad Inns hasn't discovered time travel, but its CEO thinks its latest venture will take you back to the heyday of vaudeville.

The freshly restored Metropolitan Theatre is about to open for business after a quarter-century hiatus.

"You're going to see it restored to its original incarnation as the Allen Theatre, which was part of the vaudeville circuit back in the 1920s," said Paul Robson. "It's reminiscent of a bygone era as a historical building in Winnipeg."

When the first guests walk through the doors of the restored Metropolitan Theatre at tonight's invitation-only event, it will be 25 years and four days since it was last operational. It closed on Nov. 26, 1987, after a final showing of Date With An Angel, a romantic comedy starring Emmanuelle Béart, Phoebe Cates and Michael E. Knight.

The nearly 93-year-old facility, now to be known as the Met Entertainment Centre, will play host to a wide variety of events, including concerts, gala dinners, fundraisers and even movies. Once the NHL resumes playing, Robson said the Met would be an ideal place to take in a Jets game on its giant screen.

On a day-to-day basis, however, the Met will operate as a "higher-end" restaurant befitting the look and feel of the space, but with a contemporary menu.

Robson said he expects between 20 and 30 employees will run the restaurant and staffing will rise to between 35 and 50 people, depending on the event.

"We've tried to make as flexible a space as we possibly can," he said.

Robson and Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), are optimistic the Met will be a critical component of the city's sports, hospitality and entertainment district (SHED).

"It's great to see a new use being applied to that old lady," Grande said. "It's something that Winnipeggers will attend as part of this whole entertainment-district vision that we all have for the downtown."

The Met's rich history makes its revival even more poignant.

"At one time, it was the place where all Winnipeggers went to see their movies," he said.

After years of decay, water damage and mould, the restoration was a time-consuming, difficult and costly process. The city and province contributed $1.5 million each and Canad Inns put up $17 million.

The Met will host a pre-opening gala this evening, with the doors opening at 7 p.m. and the program and unveiling of the new space a half-hour later. Robson said he expects the Met to be fully operational within the next two weeks.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 A16

History

Updated on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 11:12 AM CST: Adds reference to tonight's event being invitation-only.

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