The Columbia Theatre opened with great fanfare on November 3, 1927.
Its design featured the imaginitive ornamentation of Hollywood-inspired local movie palaces. The front of the theatre featured six pairs of twisted terra cotta Moorish columns extending from the sidewalk to above the parapet.
Inside – murals of romantic Mediterranean scenery and wrought iron trellises created the atmosphere of an exotic walled garden
The historic building was renamed the “Burr Theatre” in honour of actor Raymond Burr, who was born and raised in the Royal City. For a short time live shows were presented by the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society.
The building was officially declared a heritage property in 2001, and some work began to uncover some of the original murals and other design components, but funding was not available.
In 2009 the city invited proposals to purchase the theatre. Barry Buckland, owner of Lafflines Comedy Club, took possession in 2011.
Restoration has continued, and the main theatre has been converted to a cabaret format with table groupings on four levels. The stage has been moved back to its original position, allowing seating for 300 people. Upstairs, the second theatre has been converted to a show lounge for stage presentations and private functions.
So a new chapter in the life of the Columbia Theatre is just starting, and it promises to be an exciting one. Located in the centre of New Westminster's revitalization program which includes the new River Market, Westminster Pier Park, Plaza 88, and the new multi-use Civic Centre, The Columbia is doing its part to bring back the "Golden Mile".