Nathan Rothstein and the Silver Screen

February 10, 2023

Nathan Rothstein

1882 – 1969

Russ Gourluck’s lively and entertaining Silver Screens on the Prairie, must reading for anyone who wants to acquire an appreciation of the movie theatre as a symbol of Manitoba’s rich cultural life, notes that four families were at the forefront in the development of motion picture theatres in the province, all of whom were Jewish: Miles, Morton, Asper and Rothstein.

According to Gourluck, Marty Rothstein described his grandfather Nathan Rothstein as a “serial entrepreneur” denoting an individual who whose inquisitive mind and restless spirit led him to explore and bring to fruition many business ventures.

Nathan Rothstein was born in Russia in 1882 and came to Canada in 1904, homesteading in Lipton, Saskatchewan. In the next few years, he took on various jobs such as farm labourer, ranch hand travelling salesman, laying tracks with the CPR, and eventually pooled his resources to open a general store in Mossbank, Saskatchewan. By the early 1920s Rothstein became fascinated with motion pictures. His first venture was ownership of a theatre in Mossbank, that would evolve into a chain of some twenty theatres (Rothstein Theatres Limited) from Alberta to Ontario. In Winnipeg, Rothstein became involved with Allied Theatres, partnering with Jacob “Jack” Miles. With Miles, Rothstein owned and operated the Garden, the Arlington, the Plaza, the Roxy and the Rose theatres. The latter was named after his daughter.

By the 1940s Rothstein’s interests shifted to the hospitality industry. He partnered with Joseph Wolinsky, proprietor of the Marlborough Hotel, eventually buying him out and assuming sole ownership. He also acquired the St. Charles Hotel. His son David, looked after the movie theatres. As his grandson Marty noted, “My grandfather was an entrepreneur who liked to keep moving and doing different things, while my dad was really, really passionate about the movie business for his whole life”. (Gourluck, p. 56).

Nathan Rothstein was involved in various organization within and beyond the Jewish community. These included the Manitoba Motion Pictures Pioneers, Manitoba Motion Pictures Exhibitors, the Masonic Order, the Manitoba Hotel Association, Hotel Association of Saskatchewan, Herzlia Adas Yeshurun, Talmud Torah, the Sharon Home, YMHA and B’nai B’rith. In 1957 he was awarded a medallion for his contributions to the Masonic Order and pioneering in the movie theatre industry.

Nathan Rothstein died in 1969 and was buried at the Hebrew Sick Benefit Cemetery with a Masonic memorial service.

Suggested reading:

Gourluck. Russ. Silver Screens on the Prairie. Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2012

Memorable Manitobans: Nathan Rothstein (1882 – 1969). Manitoba Historical Society.

Nathan Rothstein obituary. The Jewish Post, May 1, 1969, p.15

Peterson, Murray. Max Blankstein: Architect. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, 2022