Among numerous other events over the decades, the first few years of the Ottawa International Writers Festival (which started back in 1997) also occurred in the National Arts Centre building, and I could tell you a whole bunch of extremely good stories involving, say, Dany Laferriere, Michael Hartnett, Clare Latremouille, jwcurry, Robert McLiam Wilson, Lynn Crosbie, Will Ferguson, Michael Turner, Dermot Healy, Patrick Watson and perhaps others, but some parts of festival remain at festival.
Built well before the Russell Theatre, there was Her Majesty's Theatre, built in Wellington Street between O'Connor and Bank in 1854; renamed The Prince of Wales in 1860 to commemorate his visit to Ottawa that year, in 1866 it returned to previous name. In 1863, the theatre folded and in 1870 the building became the home of The Times Printing and Publishing. The Family Theatre itself, on Queen Street east of Bank, began showing feature-length films in 1912.
I have never understood the government small-mindedness when it comes to refusing to pay for anything arts-related. Don’t they know that every single study says that a dollar spent on the arts returns ten-fold to the community? A billion dollars was spent in Ottawa by tourists in 2004; how many of those people do you think were coming to visit, say, Nortel?