After purchasing a film projector from Léo-Ernest Ouimet in 1909, the siblings Eli, Joseph, Najeeb, Abraham, Katbe and Ameen Lawand opened their first movie house, The King Edward, situated on St. Lawrence Boulevard – “the Main.” Within a decade, these enterprising Lebanese-Syrian immigrants controlled a growing chain of neighbourhood theatres including the Dominion (now the La Tulipe, 1914), Laurier Palace (1914), and Maisonneuve (1917).
The Lawand siblings, notably Najeeb and Ameen, remained in film exhibition for several decades; however, they faced many obstacles. In 1924, their old rival, the United Amusement chain led by the Greek immigrant George Ganetakos, forced them to sell their prized Rialto theatre. In 1927, Ameen was charged with manslaughter and narrowly escaped a jail sentence following the tragic events of the Laurier Palace fire.
The Lawands nevertheless went on to form Confederation Amusements Ltd., and in an ambitious building boom, erected four landmark movie palaces : the Empress (1928), Cartier (1929), Outremont (1929) and Chateau (1932). For a decade, Confederation Amusement remained Montreal’s largest independent theatre chain. Fierce competition eventually made it impossible for them to remain independent. The Lawands ceded control of their theatres to United Amusement, which was backed by Famous Players Canadian Corporation, in 1938.