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1951-1979::The Tillicum Outdoor Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

The fresh-air theatre that entertained Vancouver Islander's for almost thirty years.


1952::Tillicum Outdoor Theatre Advertisement

"The Tillicum Outdoor Theatre"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1952)


On June 1, 1951, the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre opened for business. It was Victoria's first drive-in theatre with enough space to fit 620 cars on its hard-top surface. Opening Night featured cartoons for kids and a Danny Kaye movie called The Inspector General (90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).


1953::Kids Horse Track at Tillicum Outdoor Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia

"The Horse Track For Kids"

Photo Clip: Times Colonist (1953)

Victoria, British Columbia


Soon after its Grand Opening, the theatre opened a small horse paddock underneath its large movie screen. Kids were led around its track on Shetland ponies (Snuffy and Lightning) until the show began.


After a late-night cinema, Victorians were called back for a Sunday morning Swap'n Shop set up for anyone who needed to do a little spring cleaning or make a few trades (25 cents got you in!).


1963::New Cinemascope Screen at the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia

"A New Cinemascope Screen"

Photo Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1985)


In 1956, new technology was introduced. The Tillicum Outdoor Theatre became the first theatre to install an 85' x 38' Cinemascope/Technicolour screen, said to be the largest screen on the west coast. Times, they were a-changing.


1965::Plans for a new Sports Complex in Victoria, British Columbia

"The Proposed Sports Complex"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1965)


In 1965, developers came to Victoria with a plan to build the biggest sports complex in the city. Within the facility was to be a swimming pool, a baseball diamond, an ice arena, a lacrosse field and a football-soccer stadium. With bleachers, change rooms and seating for sports fans, it was enormous. Above all this change, the plan would have left the drive-in theatre in its place.


1968::Viewing the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre from Behind the Screen in Victoria, British Columbia

"1969::Looking Down at the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre From Behind"

Photo: (tbd)


The plan to build a sports complex adjacent to the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre was approved in bits and pieces. Construction began right away, and in 1968, the new G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre was opened for business. Suddenly there was much more to do in the area than go to the movies with mom and dad and as many kids as they could stuff in the car. The outdoor theatre business began to slow.


1969::Clint Eastwood at the Drive-In in Victoria, British Columbia

"Dolby Stereo Sound"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1969)


When the 1970s arrived, technology had advanced again with the introduction of Dolby Stereo Sound. Star Wars was not the first movie to introduce the new technology, but its sound effects certainly had an impact on modern-day audiences. As Darth and Skywalker mesmerized a generation, plans to replace the theatre with a new shopping mall were well underway.


1979::Final Dusk to Dawn showing at the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia

"The Final Dusk to Dawn"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1979)


On November 11, 1979, the theatre held its closing Dusk-to-Dawn event with Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Weeks later, demolition began on the theatre to make way for the Tillicum Shopping Centre that opened its doors in 1982.


1979::Taking down the big screen at the Tillicum Outdoor Theatre in Victoria, British Columbia

"1979::The Tillicum Outdoor Theatre Closes For Good"

Photo: (tbd)


On November 29, 1979, a demolition expert hung from a rope and gave his best Tarzan pose before the structure tumbled to the ground to make way for the new Tillicum Shopping Centre.


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