Thursday, March 25, 2010

Word has spread that the future of the Ridge Theatre at Arbutus and 16th is once again in doubt.

Last time the Ridge was in trouble came with the passing of owner Ray Mainland, who died in a car accident on the Burrard Street Bridge in the 1990s. Mainland was on the verge of selling the now 60-year-old theatre to Festival Cinema’s Leonard Schein, a sale that stalled for a number of years until Schein and Mainland’s ex-wife Marilyn came to an agreement.

In an article published in today’s Globe and Mail, Schein complains that the theatre will not survive its next rent increase. “Unless our landlord reduces our rent greatly, we will not be able to renew.” CUT TO: landlord Sondra Green of Sonjan Enterprises, who said, “I feel, from our conversation, that he [Schein] just feels that a single theatre doesn’t work any longer. They can’t compete with multiplexes.”

What is interesting about the article is that it gives the impression of two stories – Schein’s version, which has a rent increase as the villain, versus Green’s, where the multiplex is the enemy.

Green’s approach tells me she has had some media training. To suggest that a rent increase and a Borg-like multiplex are unrelated is simply not true. Green is too careful a landlord to allow the public to think that the Ridge folded because of a rent increase, something Cathy Legate of Duthie Books downplayed a couple months earlier when she blamed her store’s demise not on a 30% rent increase but that more ethereal form of multiplex, the Internet.

Vancouver International Film Festival director Alan Franey, who managed the Ridge from 1979-1986, was also quoted in the article, noting the theatre’s relationship to the neighbourhood around it – the same neighbourhood that once complained of theatre patrons taking all the parking spots or waking them up after midnight screenings. Franey said, “Movie theatres outside city centres or Silver City have a real convivial feel – you meet people you know there; you meet your neighbours,” adding that “[i]n this fragmented world where we often don’t know who lives three doors down from us, we can’t afford to lose all these opportunies for community building.” I felt the same way when Duthie’s closed.

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