FAMOUS PLAYERS LEAVING REGINA
Famous Players will walk away from their 21-year-old home in the Cornwall shopping centre — and from the Regina market — at the end of August.
“Our lease expires at the end of the summer. We are not renewing it,” vice-president of corporate affairs Joanne Fraser told the Regina Leader-Post on Monday. “It’s a business decision. We’ve been closing more traditional theatres on a national basis.”
It’s the Cornwall cinema’s age, rather than its downtown location, that has led to the decision, Fraser said. When the silver screen turns gray, audiences stay away.
“People have shown a marked preference for the newer multiplexes.”
Audiences like the leg room, the sound system and the food choices found in the newer cinemas, she said.
“I don’t think any (cinema) company in North America anticipated the impact the new theatres would have on the old theatres,” Fraser said. “With our older buildings, as the licences come up, we let them expire.”
“They’ve come to the conclusion the can’t be competitive, given how the theatre looks and feels and where it is,” Cornwall Centre general manager Josh Lommer said. “The two years I’ve been here, the theatre has been subpar compared to how some of the theatres in our (Cadillac-Fairview’s) other malls in Western Canada have done.”
The decision means Famous Players will no longer have a presence in Regina. The national chain has leased 20,000 square feet and operated four screens inside Regina’s downtown mall since 1981.
In 2000, Famous Players explored the possibility of building a $20-million multiplex outside city limits to get around the zoning bylaw that confined new theatre development to the downtown. Last week, city council amended the bylaw to remove that condition.
However, Fraser is not aware of any current plans to build a newer, suburban theatre here to replace the Cornwall operation.
“The reality is we’ve been through an expansion plan, but that’s ended. We built 44 new theatres from 1995 to 2001.”
Cadillac-Fairview is searching for a new tenant. Lommer did not believe the loss of the shrinking theatre crowd will affect spin-off traffic for the mall’s other retailers.
However, the city councillor for the ward that includes the downtown said the departure hampers efforts to turn the area into an entertainment hub.
Coun. Fred Clipsham said the industry standard is one screen per 10,000 people, but the pending construction of two new multiplexes in northwest Regina would have brought the total number of local screens to nearly 40. “I kind of expected that something was going to give.”
One of the two new multiplexes is part of the Galaxy chain, which Famous Players owned five per cent of until the federal competition bureau recently directed them to divest. Fraser did not know Famous Players’ long-term plans for Saskatoon, where it currently operates one older theatre.