The sound of shattering glass propelled neighbours to the Ridge Theatre into the street last Wednesday.
“All the neighbours came out of their house,” said David Chapman. “They were like what the hell? We all watched in disbelief. They just tore it all down.”
Chapman says he saw a crane smash through the stained glass windows that were to be salvaged from the cinema. The windows depicted an old film projector and were supposed to be installed and backlit at a new Cineplex movie theatre on Marine Drive.
Chapman didn’t protest the commercial and condo development that eradicated the site’s theatre and bowling alley, but he’s lived nearby for 14 years and is sick of seeing cultural institutions and old bungalows in the area disappear.
“I usually don’t speak up, but this one had me so riled,” he said.
Chapman is aware Kitsilano’s Hollywood Theatre may be redeveloped and wants the façade, at least, preserved.
“I look at places like Seattle where in one block you can find a building from the ’40s, ’50s, ’70s, ’80s, and say, 2010, and they make it work,” he said. “Look at Montreal. Montreal is one of the most beautiful cities because they save part of their history, even if it means they’re going to modify it.”
Leonard Schein, retired president of Festival Cinemas that ran the Ridge and had the windows made and installed in 1978, said Tuesday that Cineplex decided about two weeks ago the windows wouldn’t fit its new multiplex.
Saving the windows would have been costly, especially on short notice.
“As you know, the person who took the bowling pin [that once sat on the roof of the complex], it cost about $25,000,” he said. “To take the windows was also going to be very expensive, renting scaffolding and everything because each one was four-feet-by-eight-feet and it was soldered into the building.”
The Ridge sign will mark the new development. The Vancouver Sun reported last week that Eric Cohen of RENEW Gallery and philanthropist Yosef Wosk saved the giant bowling pin.
The doors to the Ridge’s auditorium are now at the Rio Theatre. The screen, curtains, flooring, seats, projectors, audio equipment, ticket booth and popcorn are all being reused elsewhere.
Donald Luxton, president of the board of Heritage Vancouver, is less concerned about the loss of heritage features when it comes to cinemas and more concerned about the loss of cultural, gathering, rehearsing and performance space.
He says the pace of loss in Vancouver is accelerating and residents are noticing the deficits.
“Their communities are just becoming less serviced, less interesting, there are less amenities and… density without amenities is not livable,” he said. “We’re making things much denser to make them affordable… We’re finding that the more the land values go up, the more they’re putting pressure on all these other parts of our city, some of which we don’t necessarily want to lose.”
Luxton says the city needs to pay more attention to preserving heritage and cultural space. But he blames the provincial and federal governments for lacking significant heritage programs.
“B.C. is probably the worst province for heritage programs in the country,” he said.