Memorable Manitobans: Jacob “Jack” Miles (1887-1951)
Theatre owner, community activist.
Born in Russia in 1887, he came to Canada in 1904 and settled at Winnipeg where he worked as a painting contractor and was the proprietor of three bicycle shops. He is said to have introduced Harley Davidson motorcycles to the city. With his companies Allied Amusements and later Western Theatres, he began operating theatres with the 1912 opening of the Palace Theatre, followed by the Rose Theatre (801 Sargent), Plaza Theatre (104 Marion), and Uptown Theatre (1930-1931).
In 1935, he purchased three Universal theatres, the Lyceum, College, and Starland, and the following year became associated with the Famous Players Canadian Corporation. At his peak, he controlled 18 theatres in Winnipeg, including the Furby Theatre (599 Portage), Starland Theatre (628 Main), and Tivoli Theatre (115 Maryland). He opened the city’s first drive-in theatre, the Pembina Drive-In on Pembina Highway, in 1949, and later had the Airport Drive-In (Ellice Avenue), Eldorado Drive-In (Henderson Highway), and Starlite Drive-In (Transcona).
On 23 March 1908, he married English immigrant Esther Thompson (1888-1990) and they had six children: Arthur Nathan “Nate” Miles (1909-1997, husband of Claire Zivot), Sam Richard Miles (1912-2002, husband of Frances Golden), George Miles (1913-1996, husband of Helen ?), Celia Miles (1919-1980, wife of Sam Craman), Claire Miles (1922-2013, wife of David Dveris), and Anne Miles (1922-?, wife of Syd Gutterman). The family lived at 241 Cathedral Avenue, designed by Max Zev Blankstein, from 1930 to his death. Active in the Jewish community, he was a President of the Hebrew Sick Benefit Association and a founder and President of the Winnipeg Hebrew Free School. He was a member of B’nai B’rith, Jewish Scientific Institution, and Montefiore Club.
He died at his Winnipeg home, 241 Cathedral Avenue, on 18 September 1951 and was buried in the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
“Prominent city theatre owner dies at 64,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 September 1951, page 32.
Obituary [Celia Craman], Winnipeg Free Press, 18 November 1980, page 78.
Obituary [Esther Miles], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 October 1990, page 79.
Obituary [George Miles], Winnipeg Free Press, 2 April 1996, page 31.
Death registration [Arthur Nathan Miles], British Columbia Vital Statistics.
Obituary [A. Nathan Miles], Winnipeg Free Press, 13 February 1997, page 32.
Obituary [Sam Richard Miles], Winnipeg Free Press, 17 March 2002.
Obituary [Claire Dveris], Winnipeg Free Press, 19 October 2013.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
Max Blankstein: Architect by Murray Peterson, Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, 2022.
We thank Cara Dveris, Darryl Resch, and Jordan Makichuk for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 24 February 2023