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The Armond will shine again

Cranbrook interior designer buys the historic downtown theatre and plans to restore it as a multi-purpose function centre
The Armond Theatre on Cranbrook's 10th Avenue will go through a court-ordered sale on Monday

Cranbrook's historic Armond Theatre has a new owner, who plans to turn the neglected movie house into an art deco, Great Gatsby style function centre.

Local interior designer Jean Trimble bought the old theatre in downtown Cranbrook in a court-ordered sale on Monday, July 22. She takes possession of the building on August 9, and hopes to start renovations right away.

"I'm so happy," Trimble told the Townsman right after the court hearing. "It was tugging at my heartstrings and I could see the huge potential.

"It's like a beacon and it will shine again."

Trimble's vision for what will be called the Armond Grande is that the main floor will be a beautifully decorated multi-purpose space that can be rented for events such as weddings, parties, musical performances and educational programs.

"I've tried very hard to not get in the way of present facilities such as the Key City Theatre and the Studio Stage Door," she said.

Upstairs, in what used to be Cinema 2, Trimble plans to create a piano bar with chef catering.

She wants to see fountains and greenery in the main space, with decor inspired by the 1920s, '30s and '40s.

"It will be quite beautiful when it's done," she said. "It will have a lovely ambience. It's a must."

Named after the original managing director Armond Clark Blaine, who died during construction, the Armond Theatre opened on March 19, 1952. Its first film was "An American In Paris".

The theatre was a Cranbrook hotspot until the late 1990s when the Columbia Theatre opened at the Tamarack Centre. As attendance dwindled, the Armond closed its doors in 1999.

Since then, it has passed through several owners, remaining a stand-out in downtown Cranbrook for its neon sign and the painted Pepsi advertisement on the building's exterior.

A restrictive covenant prohibits using the building as a public movie house.

Trimble has spent quite a bit of time researching the history of the Armond, and she has been in touch with relatives of Armond Clark Blaine, who she hopes will provide photos from the Armond's early days.

"Culture is a very big part of this whole thing, and the story of how theatre began here and the folks who did so much to bring it to the forefront."

Trimble said she found a transcript of the speech Cranbrook's mayor made in 1952 when the theatre opened its doors, who said the theatre would always shine in the city.

"I took it to heart that the Armond will always shine. I think it just needed some time to get ready for some new duds," said Trimble.

She has enlisted the services of Al Hubri Construction to take on the renovation work, which includes replacing the flooring and two broken roof trusses. Trimble says construction is scheduled to take eight months, but she hopes it will be less because she wants the grand opening to be a Christmas dance.

"We'll be decking the halls for the community," she said.

"I have faith that it can be done, but it will be hard work."