Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ridge + tinseltown in jeopardy

Vancouver's cinema scene is changing
Globe and Mail | Nov 22 2010 | Updated Nov 23 2010

Vancouver’s cinema scene will change this week, as Cineplex Entertainment takes over the Cinemark Tinseltown – and the move is hardly getting rave reviews.

With Cinemark out of the picture, the operation will be re-named Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas, The Globe and Mail has learned. The deal has not been officially announced, but staff have been informed of the change.

Pat Marshall, vice-president of communications and investor relations for Cineplex Entertainment, said she expected a signed agreement would be in place this week, with the change of ownership – and name – to take effect on Friday.

“As part of the acquisition, we will review all elements of the theatre operation and we’ll make whatever change is necessary,” Ms. Marshall said, adding that staff have been offered – and accepted – jobs with Cineplex.

Ms. Marshall said it was unclear whether pricing will change. The difference in cost for an adult ticket in the evening is minimal ($12.99 at Cineplex’s Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Vancouver versus $12.75 at Tinseltown), but Cinemark offers discounts for matinées and also free parking for patrons during the film.

When asked whether the long-standing practice of showing less mainstream art films would continue at the theatres, Ms. Marshall was non-committal.

“I think we’ll take a look at a number of different elements in terms of programming,” she said, adding that Cineplex is looking at adding digital projectors and 3-D systems. “I think you’ll see a much expanded array of both technology and film offerings.”

Tom Charity, who programs the Vancity Theatre and also reviews films for CNN.com, called the sale cause for concern.

“I think [Tinseltown’s] booking has been really quite courageous and very diverse. ... They’ve shown a much wider range of films than you see at the Scotiabank, for example. They’ve been open to showing Canadian films and even subtitled films and they’ve been very open to the community to renting the theatre out to local festivals. And that may or may not change. The proof will be in the pudding. But if we look at what happens at the Scotiabank, that type of thing doesn’t happen very much.”

Brian McIlroy, a film studies professor at the University of British Columbia, agreed.

“On the surface, the major concern here is a diminishment of variety of cinematic offerings in the city. Tinseltown's many screens have allowed smaller films to get a screening, even if in a small auditorium. ... Cineplex is likely to think long and hard about the variety – or the risk-taking – that Tinseltown has offered in the past.

Tinseltown is the only theatre in Canada operated by Cinemark. Calls to Tinseltown and Cinemark’s corporate office were not returned by deadline on Monday.

Venerable Ridge Theatre's future in doubt
Globe and Mail | Mar 25 2010 | Updated Nov 22 2010

After 60 years and hundreds of movies, the end credits appear to be looming for the venerable Ridge Theatre, birthplace of the Vancouver International Film Festival and a neighbourhood theatre on Arbutus Street.

High rents and the challenges of making a one-screen theatre work in a multiplex age are converging to doom the Kitsilano theatre, which has tended to show independent, foreign and Canadian films – Atom Egoyan's new thriller Chloe opens there on Friday – and continues to host screenings for the Vancouver festival.

Leonard Schein, founder and president of Festival Cinemas, which runs the Ridge Theatre as well as the Park Theatre on Cambie and Fifth Avenue Cinemas multiplex on Burrard Street, says his five-year lease on the 480-seat Ridge ends on Dec. 31 of this year.

Unless our landlord reduces our rent greatly, we will not be able to renew,” Mr. Schein told The Globe and Mail in an e-mail commenting on the theatre's future.

Both photographs of the Ridge Theatre by Ron Reed

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