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Yup, Squamish wants a cinema

Cinema - /ˈsinəmə/ - cin·e·ma

a theatre where movies are shown for public entertainment; a movie theatre.

There was buzz recently around local desire to have someone build a cinema. That buzz was reignited for me when my daughter suggested one of the biggest things missing for her in her hometown is a movie theatre.

Reporter Steven Chua with The Squamish Chief wrote about it in an article after Squamish Council discussed a proposal to redevelop the area between Hunter Place and Pemberton Street. The plot of land includes the buildings that house the Ministry of Children and Families, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Ministry of Health (Vancouver Coastal Health) and the headquarters of Squamish Mills.

Mayor Karen Elliott suggested during the discussion that this location would be ideal for a movie theatre. I agree with her. This could be a great location for such a business. During the council discussion Chua reported that I wouldn’t support a cinema in this location given that the town's previous theatre suffered a slow death. I predicted the same would happen if another was opened in the same way the previous theatre was forced upon a developer

Back when Garibaldi Village was proposed the council members at that time were under immense pressure to attract a cinema operator to the community.

They delivered.

How did they do it?

That council rezoned the land we now know as Garibaldi Village. The developer was keen to get the rezoning. The original developer warned the council members that building a cinema, which requires specialized architecture, was risky. 

Resort Cinemas, the company operating Village 8 Cinemas in Whistler at the time, felt they could find success operating five screens in a Squamish facility large enough to hold up to 600 people.

The bad omens for the operation began before the doors opened.

Resort Cinemas got off to a tough start when the brand new speakers for the venture were stolen soon after the audio equipment arrived at Garibaldi Village.

Undeterred, the owners launched operations on Oct. 9, 2004 at 10 a.m. screening Shrek 2 for eager Squamish movie viewers.

“So they ended up turning this little twenty eight page book into the movie.

And it's all about this stinky, smelly ogre who doesn't care what anybody thinks of him.”

-Mike Meyers

Garibaldi 5 Cinema was later purchased by Metropolitan Theatres Corporation and in 2012 with losses mounting the operator permanently shut down the projectors, stopped making popcorn and locked the doors after eight years in business.

The fundamental error made from the start was forcing a developer to build a cinema. The venture was doomed from the start.

A cinema operator in Squamish needs to come here because data shows it will be a financial success. This is the kind of venture that needs to make business sense from the early planning stages. To develop a cinema in any other way is to risk once again watching a cinema die a slow transformation into another dollar store at the hands of fickle Squamish film lovers fond of movie streaming services like Netflix and the luxurious new Cineplex Cinemas Park Royal.

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