The show goes on at the Garrick Theatre, 79 years and counting

Posted on April 19, 2024 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


Patrons waiting for doors to open for a Saturday matinee at the Garrick Theatre in 1955 (photo credit: Roy Carpenter photo – Gordon Bradley collection)


A four-hour drive from St. John’s, Newfoundland, the coastal town of Bonavista is a special blend of old and new. Coined “a colourful place to work, play and live”, its centuries of culture and history set the perfect scene for the Garrick Theatre. Constructed before the island joined Canada, the Garrick will soon celebrate its 80th anniversary.

The big premiere

On Christmas Day in 1945, 21-year-old John Bradley first opened the doors of the Garrick Theatre in Bonavista, N.L. Times were good. Enlivened by the end of the War, a thriving fishery and a new, cold storage facility that employed hundreds, residents gathered to experience the new playhouse.

Thriving for its first three decades in business, the Garrick was open seven nights a week, plus Saturday matinees. It quickly became a community hub, attracting locals and residents from nearby towns wanting to see the newest film. According to the theatre’s website, patrons would socialize in the lobby; many helped employees take tickets and clean. It was a place where the community came together.


The Garrick Theatre rolled out the red carpet for a screening of The Grand Seduction in 2013 (photo credit: the Garrick Theatre)

Hard times

Although the Garrick had its fair share of challenges over time, its most significant came in 1992. The cod moratorium impacted fishing communities across N.L., including Bonavista. In just under a decade, the town’s population declined by over 35 per cent, with several people relocating to seek employment. Many businesses struggled and closed.

The Garrick Theatre held on for some time but eventually closed its doors in 2000 because operations were no longer profitable.


A view inside the Garrick Theatre’s main showroom (photo credit: the Garrick Theatre)

The sequel

As Bonavista rebuilt from its dependence on the fishery, tourism became a major contributor to its economy. In 2003, the Garrick Theatre was donated to the Bonavista Historical Society and the Bonavista Historic Townscape Foundation by its original owner, John Bradley and his family. The goal was to revitalize the Garrick as a social enterprise for the community. One of many restoration projects of the Bonavista Historic Townscape Foundation, such initiatives are not just about reviving historic properties but adding to the quality of life in the area.

After years of funding and renovations, the Garrick reopened on April 3, 2010.


A modern-day view of the Garrick Theatre in Bonavista, N.L. (photo credit: the Garrick Theatre)

Still playing

Today, operations continue at the Garrick Theatre in Bonavista, N.L. In the 211-seat historic theatre, patrons can enjoy live performances and viewings of mainstream cinema. This year, preparations are underway for the theatre’s thirteenth season of the Garrick Summer Series — an annual program of live music, comedy, theatre, readings, film and more in partnership with other venues across the province.

After 79 years, the show goes on.

For more Web Exclusives, click here.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment policy

Comments are moderated to ensure thoughtful and respectful conversations. First and last names will appear with each submission; anonymous comments and pseudonyms will not be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that Atlantic Business Magazine has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner it chooses. Publication of a comment does not constitute endorsement of that comment. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.


With ABM

Help support the magazine and entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada.


Stay in the Know

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to receive the magazine and gain access to exclusive online content.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty