History Uncovered

A Brief History Of Barrie’s Music Hall

Barrie's history of live entertainment venues stretches back almost a century, and....

A Brief History Of Barrie’s Music Hall

Uncovering the story of Mavrick’s, The Roxy and 46 Dunlop Street

Barrie’s history of live entertainment venues stretches back almost a century. And none are better known than the cool and historic house of music we know today as Mavrick’s Music Hall.

Originally called the Roxy theatre, ground broke at the Dunlop Street site in 1931. The venue was the brainchild of Italian born John Saso, who came to Barrie in the ’20s, and was the owner of fruit and vegetable stand. A descendant of his wife Stella was Sam Cancilla, the Barrie alderman and owner of Cancilla Fruit stand on Collier.

Saso saw the potential in the future of “talkies” and wanted to build a cinema for Barrie movie fans. He undertook the project at a cost of $100,000 and by 1931, the Roxy was up and running.

The original layout was of an atmospheric style auditorium with clouds ‘floating’ across the ceiling. It was a one-screen movie theatre with room for over 700 patrons to see a flick or a live show.

Moreover, the Roxy was the first of a trio of venues in the downtown core. The Granada (41 Dunlop) and the Imperial (the recently closed Uptown) soon emerged, making Barrie a vibrant theatre town.

In 1937 The Northern Advance reported that: “Barrie went on record as the only town of its size in the district to have three theatres which are placed within a hundred square yards of each other.”

Movies to Music

The Roxy eventually became home to the The Roxx nightclub, in 1988. The Roxx was known around the region for all age nights and saw many summer performances from high end talent, both Canadian and international.

Aaron Pritchett, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Method Man have all brought the noise to the Dunlop street locale over the years. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star DJ Jazzy Jeff even hosted a Halloween show called A Nightmare on Dunlop Street.

Later, it became a nightclub named Sound Empire, which opened September 14, 2013. In 2016 it reopened as Mavrick’s, and has continued to showcase talented performers.

Although it’s gone through different owners and different eras, the bones of the venue have remained in place. In fact, the domed ceiling is still there from the original design of the building, and legend has it the second largest disco ball in Canada sits in a closet somewhere inside.

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Stu Lynam

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Brent Tomlin

Between it being a theatre and music hall, it was also a teen dance hall and music venue for top artists including Kim Mitchell, Spoons, the Monks, etc. etc. etc.