Two independently owned Vancouver theatres will be sold to Cineplex Entertainment, but their tradition of showing art, foreign and independent films will live on.
The Fifth Avenue Cinemas and the Park Theatre will be added to the company’s portfolio on March 1, it announced Friday.
“I’d been operating movie theatres for 35 years now, and both my partner, Tom Lightburn, and myself turned 65 this year so it was time to retire,” said Leonard Schein, the theatres’ owner and founder of the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Mr. Schein’s company, Festival Cinemas, was forced to close its Ridge Theatre two weeks ago after property owners decided last spring to tear it down to make way for a retail complex and condos.
The Fifth Avenue Cinemas and the Park Theatre are the company’s last two theatres.
“I felt they [Cineplex] were the best operators of movie theatres and they would keep these theatres going, and pay landlords and keep staff,” said Mr. Schein, about his decision to sell to the company. “I have confidence in Cineplex that they will keep these theatres going for the long term.”
Pam Marshall, Cineplex’s vice-president of communications and investor relations, told The Globe and Mail that the company has every intention on continuing the tradition of showing art, foreign and independent films in the theatres.
“Our plan is to absolutely keep the programming in the same format that’s been successful for many years,” she said. “We don’t see that it makes sense to make any changes on that front.”
Ms. Marshall says that movie prices will remain the same, but added that moviegoers will now be able to save money through SCENE cards and discount programs like Cineplex Tuesdays.
Mr. Schein said he wanted to thank all those in the community who had attended Festival Cinemas’ theatres over the last three and a half decades.
He says he believes his legacy will continue to be felt.
“When I started 35 years ago, Vancouver really only had Hollywood studio films,” he said. “Festival Cinemas has really helped nurture the audience and appreciation of independent, art and foreign films.”