History of Brantford's Allen Theatre

A brief history of Brantford's Allen Theatre

Rise of the Allen Brothers

Jule and Jay J. Allen were brothers who established North America's first national cinema chain. Born in Pennsylvania, the brothers toured Southern Ontario with the hopes of establishing a theatre to capitalize on the Nickelodeon craze that had emerged in Pittsburgh. Jule selected Brantford due to its proximity to Niagara Falls and on November 10, 1906, Allen’s Theatorium opened. 



Commercial Success

Following the successful launch of their Brantford theatre, the brothers were able establish several franchise locations across Canada under the name Allen Theatres Enterprises. Over the next 11 years, they opened theatres in Toronto, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, and other cities. The Allen brothers also managed to obtain the exclusive rights to feature Paramount films within their theatres. This contributed greatly to the success of the company. 



Decline of the Allen Theatres

Unfortunately, the business began to decline in when a rift formed between the Allen Brothers and Paramount Studios. This came to a head in 1919 when Paramount reneged on their exclusivity deal with Allen Theatres Enterprises and began establishing their own line of theatres. The brothers tried to keep their business afloat, but despite their best efforts, Allen Theatres Enterprises was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1924. Many of their remaining theatres were bought out and renamed Capitol Theatres.



The establishment of the Allen Theatre played an important role not only in the history of Brantford and its Jewish community, but in the history of Canadian theatre. Since Allen Theatres were Canada's first movie theatre chain, Brantford could be considered the birthplace of the Canadian movie industry! It was Jule and Jay J. Allen's success in Brantford that launched Nickelodeon theatres across the country. 


The Memories of Brantford Project thanks the sponsors for their generous support.