A small crowd braved a wild winter storm in Picton last night to attend the launch of the 2014 History Nights At The Regent lecture series.

This series of three lectures on heritage themes kicked off with a presentation on the heady days of the movie industry between 1917-1934 in Trenton, Ontario when a series of Canadian companies set up shop in this unlikely place.

Guest speaker, Peggy Dymond Leavey, the author of a book on the subject, told the story of the Canadian movie industry of the times, the “boom and bust” nature of the first film companies, their impact upon the community, and the legacy of the era.

It was the time of silent films – romances, comedies, and the occasional blockbuster epic like “Carry On Sergeant” a film with a staggering $500,000 budget shot on location in various Trenton and Kingston sites.  When it premiered at the Regent Theatre in Toronto in November 1928, nearly 18,000 people showed up to view the film and hear the live orchestra that provided the musical soundtrack.

But the industry was never a commercial success, and the Ontario government, which owned the Trenton studio, got tired of its annual losses. It closed the facility in 1934 and ordered all the films destroyed. Miraculously, some survived the government dictate, and in 1965, 2,400 reels of film were discovered in a North Bay barn. For all its ups and downs, the whirlwind days of making movies in Trenton left a legacy. Today, there is still a Film Street in Trenton and a cairn in front of the old studio that is now a textile plant.

Click link for Picton Gazette’s articles on pages 3 & 5   http://issuu.com/pictongazette/docs/picton_gazette_jan9

The next History Nights At The Regent lecture is on Monday, February 3rd at 7 PM when Sean Billing, an executive with Skyline Hotels, will discuss his company’s multi-million dollar investment in the restoration and return of the CP luxury liner, the S.S. Keewatin, to its homeport of Port McNicoll near Barrie, Ontario in 2012.

For tickets, contact the Regent Theatre, 224 Main St. in Picton Tel: 613 – 476 – 8416


Picture of Peter Lockyer

Peter Lockyer

Local historian and former CBC Journalist, Peter has been a life-long resident in Picton, Ontario.

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