History of The Bailey
Legend has it that Camille David (pronounced DAH-vid) left Winnipeg with a herd of cattle looking for a place to build a ranch. He found that place in the Rosalind area, and after making some money as a rancher, came to Camrose in the spring of 1909. He purchased a wine, liquor and cigar store on main street. In 1910 he started building the David Theatre across the street from his store. The first documented show was staged in the theatre on February 23, 1911. The theatre was a very active venue in its early years with touring shows, films, amateur theatre, political rallies and even boxing matches. The theatre had electric lighting and even an orchestra pit. The stage was accessible from dressing rooms underneath where several actors autographed the walls in the early years.
In 1919 David sold the theatre to Stan Bailey who kept the David Theatre name for a few years. He added the front 40 ft. lobby area, and the 120-seat balcony, which was completed in June 1922. It was designed as an Edwardian style, brick, commercial storefront with a large arched opening at the entrance.
The theatre began its life with vaudeville, and then moved onto silent movies in the 1920s and 1930s. The first "talkie" movie with sound to be shown in the theatre, was "Peacock Alley" in 1930. Stan and his brother Theo operated the theatre for many years and also had a traveling projector that they took on the road to show movies in many Camrose area communities.
Sometime in the thirties or forties the façade was reconstructed to create a classic Art Deco appearance. Black glass below with white plaster and racing stripes above gave the theatre a dashing new look. A new modern sign pylon with a metal marquee, complete with chaser lights and neon sign, were a major presence on the Camrose Main Street for many years.
While live entertainment and dances continued to be held at the theatre through WWII, soon after movies became the mainstay until the mid-1990s when a multiplex theatre opened and The Bailey could no longer compete. In 1998, Landmark Cinemas donated the building and one of the two projectors to The Bailey Theatre Society. Volunteers repainted the pressed metal walls and ceilings, some structural work was begun and the sprinkler system was designed and materials ordered. Unfortunately the money ran out and work halted on The Bailey came to a stop.
The scope of the work was considerably more extensive than was originally thought. The building sat dormant until 2006, when a major benefactor stepped forward with a gift of $1.75 million and a further contribution of $750,000 to match any private donations from the community put the restoration of the theatre back on track. Fundraising efforts were augmented by contributions from the City of Camrose, Government of Alberta and the Federal Government leading to The Bailey Theatre's re-opening in time to celebrate its centennial in May of 2011. The final construction costs were approximately $8,100,000.