Beacon Theatre stained glass window

Beacon Theatre stained glass window in Burns Lake

Burns Lake’s Lakes District Film Appreciation Society’s (LDFAS) long-time project to renovate Beacon Theatre, the pride and joy of the village, has finally concluded with a unique stained-glass window immortalized as a part of the renovations.

The theatre, which was originally called the REO Beacon, according to John Illes, a volunteer with LDFAS, said that a similar theatre was also built in nearly the same style in Vanderhoof at the same time named the REO Grand. The Grand REO Theatre still exists, to this day, in Vanderhoof.

“The same windows were in both the Burns Lake and Vanderhoof theatres and always have been since construction although the Burns Lake one was covered over with siding in the 90’s. We have replaced the window with new stained glass. It is nice to bring the theatre to some of its original style and glory,” said Illes.

Kai Epkens, who has been working on the renovations, shed some more light on the stained glass. “The window is made from approximately 130 individual pieces of stained glass, soldered together to form a picture of a ‘Beacon’ of light shining from a lighthouse. The window is not visible from the common seating area. It is only visible from the street,” said Epkens. “We thought that a stained-glass window would be a nice way to highlight the front of the theatre and draw attention to the building.”

The original theatre which was in place of the Beacon, had an arc projector which burned down over time and the rods have to be moved closer together to ensure even illumination, noted Lakes District Museum’s curator, Michael Riis-Christianson.

“When the theatre closed due to financial difficulties about 15 years ago, it left the town with fewer recreation options. Today, we are so fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers running the theatre as a non-profit society. At the time, I believe it was one of the only community-run theatres in Canada. Young people now have a safe place they can meet, socialize, and take in top-notch entertainment,” he said.

The Beacon Theatre was purchased in August of 2010 by the LDFAS and reopened as Canada’s second community-owned cinema. The theatre still had a 1950’s era projector and 35mm system, which meant obtaining films for the theatre would be difficult and expensive, and they wouldn’t reach Burns Lake until long after the films had their first run in major centres, says the Beacon Theatre’s website. Later, digital projection and sound equipment were installed to bring the theatre up to date.

“The non-profit model works well for small communities like ours, because (as history has shown) the theatre cannot support a for-profit operation. Film society volunteers here work incredibly hard for nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing they are helping improve our community,” said Riis-Christianson.

In the past few years, the Society has been fervently fundraising to repair the theatre, mainly because without all the necessary upgrades for the roof, the walls and the facade, the Beacon Theatre could have potentially faced permanent closure.

Illes noted that the theatre renovations are now complete. “Although we may add additional signage and trim in the future,” he said.


Beacon Theatre stained glass window

Beacon Theatre

Beacon Theatre