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park theatre vancouver bc




Park Theatre
3440 Cambie St @ 18th Ave.
Built 1941

Cineplex buys Vancouver independent theatres

CBC News: Feb 15, 2013

Cineplex Entertainment is buying Vancouver's independent movie theatre chain Festival Cinemas and taking control of the firm's two remaining theatres, Fifth Avenue Cinemas and the Park Theatre.

The move comes only two weeks after Festival Cinema's third cinema, the Ridge Theatre, was forced to close when property owners the Cressey Development Group decided to level the landmark to make way for condos.

President of Festival Cinemas Leonard Schein said that after 35 years, he and fellow owner Tom Lightburn had decided to retire from movie theatre exhibition.

"We are proud that Canada's best theatre operator has agreed to purchase these theatres and we know Cineplex will provide our loyal guests Vancouver's best movie-going experience," he said.

"Our sincerest thanks go to the many employees, guests and film critics we have encountered throughout our careers in the entertainment business."

Schein said it was a tough decision to sell the theatres to Cineplex.

"We didn't really want to sell it to somebody who might run it for a few years and then run into financial difficulties and lose those theatres. So it was important to us to sell it to someone who would keep those theatres operating."

Cineplex President and CEO Ellis Jacob said the company is pleased to add the two iconic theatres to their circuit.

His colleague Michael Kennedy, Executive Vice President of filmed entertainment at Cineplex said, "The Fifth Avenue and the Park theatres are well known in Vancouver for programming the highest quality art, independent and foreign films.

"Cineplex is absolutely committed to continue to offer intelligent and artistic films from around the world in these theatres going forward."

Fifth Avenue Cinemas employee Natasha Sanders-Kay said workers were given the news in a staff meeting Friday morning. She isn't happy about the sale.

"We are going to lose the sense of going to a unique theatre and lose the sense of small independent busineses dedicated to art films and supporting the arts," she said.

Cineplex's SCENE loyalty program and Front Row Centre Events will be made available at the two theatres as part of the purchase.

Cineplex is the largest motion picture exhibitor in Canada and operates more than 130 theatres across the country.

The transaction is expected to close March 1, 2013.

Source: Park Theatre website - http://www.festivalcinemas.ca/ retrieved April 2013


Fifth Avenue Cinemas and The Park Theatre are now operated by Cineplex Entertainment

We want to thank all of you for supporting Festival Cinemas for so many years. We have tried to show the best movies available and hire staff that treated our film goers with respect by going the extra distance to make your visit to our theatres as enjoyable as possible.

We are very proud to have been involved with and support many local charities, non-profit societies and local organizations.

Cineplex Entertainment will be showing the same kind of films you've seen at Festival Cinemas and will be keeping all of our staff.

After 35 years in the film industry and turning 65 this year, we have decided to retire.

Tom Lightburn and Leonard Schein

Classic movie fan turns into screen saver

Restoration of Park Theatre a labour of love

By Monte Stewart
Business Edge
  July 15, 2007

The Park Theatre in Vancouver has come back to life after receiving a $300,000 heart transplant.

The landmark movie house at 18th Avenue and Cambie Street on Vancouver's westside has reopened after a two-month hiatus and change in ownership.

The Park's brownstone exterior looks the same as when it opened in 1941. Its interior looks quite different.

"(Former owner) Famous Players decided to take everything out and not sell anything in the theatre," says current owner Leonard Schein. "When I received possession of the theatre in April from the landlord, it was completely gutted.

Leonard Schein has reason to smile as the renovated Park Theatre welcomes back movie-goers
photo: Wayne Chose
Park Theatre owner Leonard Schein demonstrates the theatre's new seats, which feature a lift-up armrest that turns a double seat into a loveseat for couples to watch the main attraction.
photo: Wayne Chose

"There was no screen, no curtains, light fixtures - everything other than the toilet and sink was taken out. So I decided, since I had a shell to work with, we might as well make it very nice, because we have to be competing with the Paramount and other new theatres."

The revamped interior includes 504 high-backed teal-coloured seats, down from the former 640. When any middle armrest is lifted, two seats become one loveseat, so moviegoers can cuddle with their mates or dates.

The seat rows have been staggered to ensure nobody's head gets in the way as other viewers read subtitles at the bottom of the new 18x36-ft. screen.

Simply put, old is new again at the Park. Schein resumes his role at the helm of the theatre that he owned and operated between 1990 and 2001 while his company, Festival Cinemas Ltd. - which he owns with his wife Barbara Small, a long-time Vancouver Folk Festival board member - is once again the supporting organization.

He is banking that movie buffs will remember previous happy experiences at the Park, such as having their first kiss or watching hits such as E.T. or Lawrence of Arabia, and will feel more comfortable laughing and crying with 400 or 500 new-found friends rather than watching on their DVD player at home.

"It's been here since 1941, so many people had their first smooch here or saw their first film here ... A lot of people have memories of it," says Schein.

He also believes many area residents will buy into the concept of a neighbourhood theatre, to which they can walk or ride their bikes in summer.

Schein also plans to utilize the services of local businesses and, possibly, an organization that sources supplies - notably paper products - from organizations on the Downtown East Side.

"(The Park) means a lot to the Cambie business area, the Cambie Village, as some of them call it, because the Park brings over 2,000 people a week to the neighbourhood. A lot of those people then shop in surrounding restaurants and bookstores ... So it's a big economic driver."

Schein, the founder of the Vancouver International Film Festival, entered the movie business in 1978.

He sold the Park to a partnership of Alliance Atlantis Communications and Famous Players, and also shed the Varsity Theatre, Starlight Cinema, Ridge Theatre, Fifth Avenue Cinema, the Vancouver East Cinema, Banker's Hall in Calgary and Cumberland 4 in Toronto, along with his film-distribution company.

He agreed to lease the Park again in March - the same month that it closed - after getting calls from its landlord and nearby business owners and residents.

"I wasn't ever planning to get back into the theatre business when I sold my theatres," says Schein, "I've been involved with the Canadian Cancer Society and Doctors Without Borders (and) various business-improvement areas of Vancouver."

(He also co-founded the group Friends of Larry Campbell, which likely will form the base of the Vancouver mayor's new political party.)

Brad Busby, who previously worked for Schein at his other theatres and now serves as the Park's custodian, co-ordinated construction work performed by various sub-contractors.

Vancouver architect Elizabeth MacKenzie, who usually specializes in home design and teaches at the University of B.C. school of architecture, re-designed the interior. It was her first foray into into theatre renovation.

In addition to the renovations, Schein hopes discounts for students, seniors and children, matinees, and special times for parents and babies will appeal to patrons.

Choosing the right flick will be the key to putting bums in those new seats. Unlike most competitors, Schein can only show one movie at a time.

"(Single-screen theatres) don't make economic sense," says Schein. "No one would build a single-screen today - anywhere."

Then why did he invest 300 grand in the Park?

"Although you wouldn't build a new one, I think the Park's got a wonderful location," says Schein. "Obviously, we'd do way better if we had more than one screen. I have a real love for the Park, so money isn't my main motivation. It's mainly to serve the community, show good movies and be able to do benefits for various non-profit groups."

Schein says he always made money with the Park before - and has eight years to make it a success again.

He has signed a five-year lease and five-year option, which will terminate in the eighth year - only if the undisclosed "overseas" landlord wants to demolish the building.

But that decision is a long way off.

Until then, he's banking on large crowds flocking to see arts and specialty films, including many Canadian-produced projects.

"Obviously, we're not going to have Star Wars - which everybody wants to see - but we will have other movies that will be of good quality," says Schein.

In its first days back in business, the Park showed the British-produced feature film Ladies in Lavender, Vancouver-produced documentary Hardwood (about the life of former Harlem Globetrotter and long-time city resident Mel Davis, who founded the Kitsilano Youth Basketball League) and the U.S.-produced documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, about an unheralded Detroit-based backup band, the Funk Brothers, which played anonymously on many No. 1 hits.

The basketball and music flicks were part of a double-feature benefit May 26 for the Vancouver Folk Festival.

The Park reopened May 24 with two free showings of Casablanca, the 1942 classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

And if Schein has his way, patrons will continue to offer a Bogey-esque refrain ...

Play it again, Leonard.


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All photos copyright © Christian Dahlberg except where stated otherwise. All rights reserved.
Vancouver panorama photo © Vancouver Lookout. www.vancouverlookout.com