Léo Choquette (1906-1998)
Léo Choquette (third from the right) with a group of colleagues at a meeting of the professional association of Quebec movie theatre exhibitors.
Source : Cinémathèque québécoise
The Princess cinema in Cowansville, opened in 1949 by Léo Choquette.
Source : Collections Pierre Pageau
Léo Choquette, a Franco-American born in New Hampshire, arrived in Quebec at the age of eight. Following studies at the Collège Notre-Dame and Loyola College in Montreal, he embarked upon film exhibition towards the end of the Second World War. He quickly became the largest independent exhibitor in Quebec.
The movie-theatre chain founded by Léo Choquette was active exclusively outside Montreal and Quebec City, where chains tied to American producers and distributors thrived. Although the architecture of the cinemas Choquette built was modest—for the most part a “shoebox” design—the original marquees and inviting lobbies of his cinemas brightened the main streets of a number of towns throughout Quebec in the 1940s and 50s. These cinemas showed French-language or bilingual programs seven days a week. Choquette had to settle for re-runs of French films, however, because France-Film reserved the premieres of the films it distributed for its own cinemas. Choquette could not risk going up against J.A. DeSève. Television’s late arrival throughout Quebec enabled him to do good business in the 1950s just the same. Nevertheless, he was forced to sell several of his cinemas to France-Film in the 1960s and 70s.
Léo Choquette was the brother Robert Choquette, a poet, novelist, author of radio serials and scriptwriter (Le Curé de village).
The Léo Choquette Exhibition Circuit (1945-55)
-In Lac-Saint-Jean: the Imperial (Chicoutimi); the Centre, the Bellevue and the Empire (Jonquière); the Princess and the Élysée (Kénogami); the Château (Port-Alfred); the Saguenay (Bagotville); and the Palace (Arvida).
-In the Eastern Townships: the Princess (Cowansville); the Rialto (Farnham); the Capitol and the Palace (Magog); and the Star (Waterloo).
-In the Laurentians: the Nordic (Saint-Sauveur); the Théâtre du Nord (Saint-Jérôme); and the Alhambra (Sainte-Agathe).
-In Lanaudière: the Parisien and the Royal (Berthier).
-In the Beauce: the Vimy and the Royal (Saint-Georges); and Bey’s Cinema (Thetford Mines).Also the Rex (Aylmer); the Bellerive and the Salaberry (Valleyfield); and the Champlain (Cap-de-la-Madeleine).
-In the suburbs of Montreal: the Bellevue (Pointe-aux-Trembles); the Lux (Ville Saint-Pierre); the Lucerne/Normandie (Ville Saint-Laurent); the Petit Théâtre and the Rio (Longueuil); and the St-Eustache (St-Eustache).