movie fan turns into screen saver
of Park Theatre a labour of love
Business Edge July
Park Theatre in Vancouver has come back to life after receiving
a $300,000 heart transplant.
landmark movie house at 18th Avenue and Cambie Street on
Vancouver's westside has reopened after a two-month hiatus
and change in ownership.
Park's brownstone exterior looks the same as when it opened
in 1941. Its interior looks quite different.
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.
Schein has reason to smile as the renovated Park Theatre
welcomes back movie-goers
photo: Wayne Chose
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
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
the founder of the Vancouver International Film Festival,
entered the movie business in 1978.
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.
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.
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."
also co-founded the group Friends of Larry Campbell, which
likely will form the base of the Vancouver mayor's new political
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.
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.
addition to the renovations, Schein hopes discounts for
students, seniors and children, matinees, and special times
for parents and babies will appeal to patrons.
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.
theatres) don't make economic sense," says Schein. "No one
would build a single-screen today - anywhere."
why did he invest 300 grand in the Park?
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."
says he always made money with the Park before - and has
eight years to make it a success again.
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.
that decision is a long way off.
then, he's banking on large crowds flocking to see arts
and specialty films, including many Canadian-produced projects.
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.
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.
basketball and music flicks were part of a double-feature
benefit May 26 for the Vancouver Folk Festival.
Park reopened May 24 with two free showings of Casablanca,
the 1942 classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
if Schein has his way, patrons will continue to offer a
Bogey-esque refrain ...
it again, Leonard.