By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 29, 2022.
Medicine Hat’s Monarch Theatre is set to take a new role as the star of Alberta-based filmmaker Luke Fandrich’s upcoming documentary, set to release in fall of 2022.
Fandrich became interested in the Monarch Theatre after finishing production on his 2019 documentary about the city’s historic clay district, titled Clay, Creativity and the Comeback.
“We’ve got this cinema here that proclaims to be the oldest cinema in all of Canada but there really isn’t much written about it,” Fandrich told the News. “When you go looking for stories about this place, there hasn’t really been a lot written down or documented in any way that gives you much context for it. So, I thought, this would be really cool to dive into to find out about why the cinema is here, why it’s the oldest and what stories people have to tell about it.”
The project is still in its early phases, but Fandrich has already uncovered information about the Monarch’s long history.
“From what it looks like, the reality of the Monarch Theatre being the oldest cinema is true, but it’s not actually the oldest theatre within Medicine Hat,” said Fandrich. “There were actually a ton of theatres in this city which have just fallen away and there’s really no clue left that any of those other cinemas even existed here… So, it’s amazing the Monarch has survived.”
As he continues to research the Monarch and other local theatres, Fandrich hopes the public can provide some insight about them.
“I think a big part of the story is going to be about building context around the Monarch and its significance as the oldest cinema,” said Fandrich.
“I would love to speak with anyone who worked in any of these old movie theatres or drive-ins; anyone who knew people connected to the theatres, or maybe had a business located near them. Even stories of people who just remember going to the Monarch and what their experience was; what movies they remember seeing there.”
Fandrich believes these stories will play an important role in determining the fate of the theatre.
“I think the timing, in that we don’t really know what the future of the theatre is going to be, will be (opportune) to share stories that make people realize why it’s a place worth saving,” he said.
Anyone interested in providing information or interviewing for the documentary is asked to contact Fandrich at fandrix.com/contact.