June 9, 2014
Since 1938, the Circle Theatre has been a historic beacon for the Alliston Downtown community. Unlike other buildings that undergo multiple renovations and are repurposed over the years, the Circle Theatre has always been a classic movie theatre venue. When Kate Vander Zaag was given the opportunity to become the proud owner of the theatre, she vowed to maintain the original design integrity of the building, being ever mindful of what drew her to it in the first place. She has since poured her heart and soul into the venue, blending the old with the new and giving an age old Alliston landmark an exciting new story line.
Kate moved to Alliston in 1985 when she married and instantly The Circle Theatre became a place of comfort for her, and as the years passed she found herself more and more drawn to it. Kate eventually found herself attending a weekly show as a way to schedule precious time with a friend who was experiencing a rough patch in her life. The theatre became a therapeutic getaway for a few hours – a kind of ritualistic healing that she and her friend valued dearly. The more Kate sat in those red chairs, the more she began to appreciate the greater purpose the theatre could serve; she knew that with the proper love and care the theatre had the potential to truly flourish, and with the right guidance it could become a place of community.
In April of 2012, Kate was given the opportunity to take the Circle Theatre under her stewardship. Her enthusiasm and genuine affection for the space made her the perfect candidate, generating overwhelming support from the Alliston community. Kate knew the Circle Theatre needed to be renovated to appeal to the new audience, but she wanted to hold on to its original charm and unique features. Kate leaned on her neighbours in the community for advice and support, and in true Allistonian fashion, they ultimately did everything they could to help make it happen. The community support Kate received left her to believe the theatre didn’t belong to just her; figuratively speaking, it is owned, operated, loved and cherished by Alliston as a whole.
As the renovations took hold, Kate brought in state of the art digital projectors for current Hollywood blockbusters, while holding onto older equipment from the 50’s that they plan to use to screen classic cinema soon. The chairs and flooring had to refurbished to brought up to building code standards, but keeping the red fabric cushions was an important detail in maintaining the timeless look and feel. As in days past, the snack bar still offers bottled pop, and their popcorn comes in iconic cardboard boxes. More thoughtful features that Kate insisted on including in the renovations focused around the environment including; a roof designed to reflect the heat, low flush bathroom fixtures, a pop corn compost, and even a policy that encourages patrons to bring their own bowl and cup.
It was very important to Kate that the Circle Theatre be more than just a movie theatre. She set out to give back to the amazing community that supported her so much, opening up the doors to countless community causes including live performances, youth groups, school band performances, charity events, poetry readings, improv groups and even more unique events like baby yoga, weddings and a Church service every Sunday morning. They will even rally the community together by airing major events on their screen such as the Olympic gold medal games and the Oscars.
The Circle Theatre endeavours to play a much more significant role in the Alliston community, and as it was originally so important to the area Kate only hopes to be half as significant as it was in the 30s-40s. Today it’s a venue for a live music performance at Christmas, for others it’s place of solitude to sit and listen to poetry readings and yet for many of us, it’s a still that place to get a way from it all, soak into a big comfy chair and be mesmerized by the magic of the big screen.