Georges Gauvreau (1863 or 1866-1949)
George Gauvreau played an instrumental role in the advent and success of professional French-language theatre in Montreal. The stars were aligned from the beginning: his restaurant was located next to the site where the actor and stage director Julien Daoust was building the future Théâtre National (on St. Catherine St., near the corner of Beaudry), which opened in August 1900. Faced with financial difficulties, Daoust sold the theatre to Gauvreau scarcely three weeks afterwards. Gauvreau undertook immediate renovations. He knew that to ensure the profitability of the company, it would have to attract French speakers who regularly attended English theatres. This entailed offering this audience the same kinds of shows but in French. To this end, Gauvreau recruited Paul Cazeneuve, entrusting him with the artistic direction of his theatre. A French artist who made his career working in the main touring American companies, Cazeneuve undertook to put together Quebec versions of the biggest Broadway hits (which were often adaptations of London’s versions of the biggest Parisian hits). They were an immediate success and audiences were thrilled. Gauvreau then promoted the development of a successful new genre, the revue Québécoise, which brought great numbers of people to the Théâtre National.
In 1907, Gauvreau built the Nationoscope, a six hundred-seat cinema located at the corner of St. Andrew and St. Catherine Streets, with the avowed aim of competing with his former lighting engineer Léo-Ernest Ouimet , whose Ouimetoscope (located right next to the National Theatre) was attracting large audiences. An audacious businessman with brilliant artistic flair, Georges Gauvreau surrounded himself with gifted artists and performers (from Quebec and elsewhere) who gave his professional French-language theatre momentum and turned it into an impressive force.
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Bioscope en l'an 1900
More info
Sirois-Trahan, Jean-Pierre. 1996. “Quand le Nationoscope dama le pion au Ouimetoscope.” In Gaudreault, André, Germain Lacasse, Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, Au pays des ennemis du cinéma… pour une nouvelle histoire des débuts du cinéma au Québec, p. 163-177. Québec: Nuit blanche éditeur.