By Adam Corrigan Holowitz
The Grand Theatre began its existence in 1901 as the Grand Opera House. The original owner and manager was theatre impresario Ambrose J. Small, who ran the theatre as a touring house for everything from road shows to vaudeville.
Ambrose Small disappeared on December 2, 1919 - never to be seen again. After Small’s disappearance, his holdings, including the Grand, were bought by Trans-Canada Theatre Ltd which went bankrupt in 1924. That same year, the Grand Theatre was purchased by Famous Players, the movie house company. The second balcony was removed in 1930, because it was separating from the wall. At that same time the Theatre’s owner Famous Players installed projector booths in the theatre. While movies were shown at the Grand, there were always live touring productions playing on the stage.
In 1934, the four amateur drama guilds in London, The London Drama League, The Half-Way House Players, The Meredith Players and The Community Drama Guild pooled their resources together to become London Little Theatre. With the amalgamation, London Little Theatre was able to afford to rent the theatre. In 1945 London Little Theatre purchased the Grand Theatre building from Famous Players. Famous Players sold the Grand for well under market value because of the corporation’s appreciation for London Little Theatre’s achievements.
In 1971 London Little Theatre became a professional theatre company known as Theatre London. In 1977 the building underwent a major renovation which retained the historic beauty, while making the building a state of the art facility for creating theatre. In 1983 Theatre London changed its name to the present Grand Theatre. As a professional theatre company the Grand has had eleven artistic directors and has hosted such renowned artists as William Hutt, Brent Carver, Carole Shelley, Louise Pitre, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and many more.