The Columbia Theatre was built in 1927 as an atmospheric theatre and offered its patrons “Vaudeville + Photoplay” – a combination of cinema, vaudeville and live music – the standard in entertainment fare for the time.
In 1976, Famous Players ‘twinned’ The Columbia by adding a second level and screen. The alterations concealed some atmospheric qualities and many other architectural features. The lobby of The Columbia was completely renovated and the stores on either side of the entrance were removed at this time. The movie theatre closed in the mid-1980’s.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles bought the building in 1987. The lower cinema became a banquet hall, with catering facilities installed in the backstage area and fly tower while the upper cinema was converted into a lounge.
The City of New Westminster purchased the Columbia in 2000 and leased it to the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society until 2006, during which time the theatre came to be known as "The Burr Theatre".
The theatre remained closed for a few years until it was sold through a public Request for Proposal process in 2010. The new owners spent over a year to turn it into a cabaret style theatre and the home of LaffLines Comedy Club.
In 2018, under new management, the main stage was re-christened the "Qayqayt Stage" in recognition of the Qayqayt First Nation upon whose unceded territory the Columbia was built. Following a complete refurbishment of sound and lighting equipment, interior renovations, and improved food and cocktail menus driven by passionate industry professionals, The Columbia is primed to be the hub of cultural revival in downtown New Westminster.
Architectural Firm: Townley and Matheson (Vancouver)
Builder: F.J. Coulthard
Interior Design: Girvan Studios
Qayqayt Stage: Capacity 330, fully licensed, all-ages venue
Clubhouse: Capacity 200, fully licensed, all-ages venue