This venue is one of the select few in the country that has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. First opened in 1941, it was designed in the Art Deco/Art Moderne style by architects Kaplan & Sprachman. For over 40 years, it operated as a cinema, under ownership of the then-brand new Canadian Odeon Theatres (a division of Famous Players Limited). In 1987, three years after the company was absorbed by Cineplex Odeon, the cinema was shut down. It wasn’t until 2008 that the brand-new, Vancouver-based entertainment company MRG Group took over the building and turned it into a live music venue (this was the MRG’s first project; currently, the company manages several venues across the country. After buying the premises, the new owners restored many of the building’s original features - such as the large neon sign topped by the silhouette of the Roman Goddess Diana - and in 2010, it was reopened as an event space.
In the relatively short time since it began its life as a music venue, the Vogue has booked acts such as Black Label Society, Rodriguez, Boney M, Bad Religion, Prince, Sinead O’Connor, Poppy, Cannibal Corpse, Lights, Tegan and Sarah, and Rival Sons. In addition, the venue hosts events such as the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
The combination of historical features and up-to-date upgrades makes the Vogue Theatre one of the most aesthetically fascinating venues in the country. The 1,350-person capacity theatre is somewhat comparable to Toronto’s Massey Hall (in that both are historic, and both have grandiose interiors), but the Vogue’s interior is timeless, somehow historical and futuristic at the same time. Designed for optimized acoustics, the main hall’s fantastically curvy ceiling resembles a series of gentle waves crashing on a beach. Warm, ambient house lights illuminate the audience and reveal complex wall patterns, while a set of 86 stage lights - 50 fixed, 36 moving - illuminate the solid maple stage. Even the lobby and mezzanine look spectacular, resplendent with lashings of polished brass and copper and plush carpets whose design motifs match the wall patterns. The curving, swooping design language almost has a sci-fi feel, like something you’d find in Star Wars’s Cloud City on Bespin - except instead of an all-white colour scheme, the Vogue is saturated with purple and gold accents, lighting, and decor.
While historical buildings have undeniable charm, their age sometimes catches up with them. Facebook user Rob Nixon witnessed a seat breaking during a show in 2017, and his fellow Facebook user Jim Schneider reports “shaky and filthy” seats, as well as “torn rugs on the floor” (2018). The place may need some general upkeep, but the things that really matter - sound quality, visibility, and ambience - are still very much on point. The Vogue’s flown curvilinear array of 16 Meyer Melodie loudspeakers deliver sound that visitors describe as “incredible” (Carmen Kosik Sundstrom on Facebook, 2020); and according to Deane Lewis “every seat and standing spot is basically ‘Front Row’” (Facebook, 2020). Because all seating in the house is treated as General Admission - i.e., first-come first-serve - this last point is of particular importance: if you don’t get to the show early enough to get to the front, you won’t be denied a great view of the band.