Stage Door News

Sarnia: Sarnia’s Imperial Theatre sells seats to fund renovations

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Patrons who have enjoyed the time they’ve spent sitting in seats at Sarnia’s Imperial Theatre can now buy two to take home and help raise funds for the downtown venue’s ongoing renovations.

The 600 seats at the theatre have been removed to make way for their replacements, so several old pairs of seats are available for $150, which includes a tax receipt for $50.

The old seats date from 1996, when the former movie house reopened as a live entertainment venue.

They are being sold “as-is” until June 30 by contacting executive director Brian Austin Jr. by email at to arrange the purchase and book a time the seats can be picked up.

“They’re 25 years old, but they’re in really great shape and we thought it would be a really neat addition to some people’s homes to have a bit of Sarnia history,” Austin said.

The 1930s-era former Capital Theatre was restored by Theatre Sarnia and has been home to plays, concerts and other live entertainment since reopening in 1996.

The theatre was in the midst of an upgrading project when the pandemic hit and shut its doors to the public, but donations and a massively successful online 50-50 draw has allowed the Imperial to continue ticking items off its renovations list, including new seats.

“Our long-term list quickly became our short-time list,” thanks to the 50-50 draw which has given away more than $1 million in prizes while also raising funds for the theatre, said Austin Jr.

The May 50/50 draw prize has topped $100,000 for the fourth month in a row.

“It’s so humbling and validating to see that support come through every month,” said Austin Jr.

Tickets can be purchased through the theatre’s website,

Austin Jr. said replacement parts aren’t available for the old seats, so it was decided it was time to replace them. The project will also allow for the refinishing of the theatre floor and fresh paint on the walls.

Renovations of washrooms in the main floor and balcony lobbies have reached the midway point while work on a new roof is set to begin later in the summer. The building’s HVAC system has also been replaced and a new ticket booth was built.

“Things are progressing really well,” said Austin Jr. “We want to get it done as quickly as possible because we don’t know when we’re going to be able to reopen.”

That will depend on the provincial rules, he said.

The next item on the to-do list is a new PA system for the theatre.

“When some of the big bands would come through, like Randy Bachman or Marianas Trench or Barenaked Ladies, we would have to rent” a system that could handle their requirements, said Austin Jr.

Plans are to put in a new state-of-the-art system to meet those needs in the future, providing sound quality that will be “superb,” he said.

Austin Jr. said they hope to place the order for the system next month if the 50-50 draw continues to perform well.

The new PA system is expected to cost $200,000, which is approximately the price tag for the seat replacement project.

“It’s going to be a completely different experience for people when they come back,” he said. “They’re not going to recognize the washroom facilities, that’s for sure.”

It has been a difficult year for everyone in the cultural sector, said Austin Jr.

“But you need to look at the silver linings in situations like this, and we were very fortunately we were able to pivot and switch to a very successful fundraising plan and take advantage of the downtime,” he said. “Scheduling this kind of work while we were operating would have been a nightmare.”

The current renovations should leave the building in good shape for next 25 to 30 years, he said.

By Paul Morden for

Photo: Imperial Theatre. © 2012 Lou Sprenger.