After Midnight in Paris, it's lights out at the Ridge. The theatre will close its doors to movie lovers after nearly 63 years of business, Feb. 3.
"It's sad to see it go. I took over operating it in 1978, so a lot of things in my adult life have happened at the Ridge," said Leonard Schein, president of Festival Cinemas.
But he acknowledged the economic case for redevelopment. "It's not just in Vancouver," he said. "Single-screen neighbourhood theatres are closing right across North America and they're being replaced with tenants or condos that can pay a lot more."
Cressey Development Group is poised to turn the mini mall that includes the Ridge and Varsity Ridge bowling alley into a four-storey commercial and condo complex.
Schein is pleased the old Ridge sign will continue to mark the spot where the cinema stood.
"It's been a landmark in Vancouver," he said. "It's better there than just in a museum some place."
Schein was pleased to learn Tuesday that Cineplex Entertainment will reuse the stained glass window depiction of film projectors from the Ridge.
Schein loved watching foreign and art films and Hollywood classics in his native California and but found only first-run cinemas when he moved to Vancouver.
Former B.C. premier Dave Barrett attended the first week and other early patrons included Gordon Campbell, Mike Harcourt and Sylvester Stallone.
"We started out with Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as a double bill for $2.50 and we were sold out at every show first weekend," Schein said.
"We had a lot of fun with Rocky Horror Picture Show," he added. "We showed it every Saturday at midnight for two years straight. It was always sold out and our customers dressed up in costumes from characters in the movie and our staff dressed up."
Noting the appetite for foreign films, Schein founded the Vancouver International Film Festival at the Ridge in 1982.
Schein moved to Toronto in 1986 to head the Toronto International Film Festival and he sold the Ridge business to his projectionist. In 2005, he took the movie theatre under his wing again as part of Festival Cinemas, which operates Fifth Avenue Cinemas and the Park Theatre.
Business was down even then following the introduction of DVDs, "pay TV" and online downloads.
"It's harder and harder to get access to films that we can show at the Ridge because everything's in digital," he added. "The writing is really on the wall for a single-screen theatre that can only show 35 mm films."
He says business suffered even further after Mein-hardt's, with its coffee bar and deli, left the mini mall and after news stories convinced readers the Ridge had already closed.
The Ridge starts its final 10 days of programming Jan. 25, with many $5 screenings. The schedule includes Oscar-nominated films, a sing-a-long to The Sound of Music and a benefit showing of My American Cousin with director Sandy Wilson and star Margaret Langrick in attendance. The event is a fundraiser for the educational trust fund for the children of longtime Georgia Straight film writer Ian Caddell.
For more information, see festivalcinemas.ca.
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