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Penticton group set to restore Penmar Theatre

Dream team — Jennifer Vincent, cofounder of CoWork Penticton, consults with DPA executive director Kerri Milton and Penmar owner Jim Morrison, prior to announcing the restoration of the theatre. All three are directors of the new Penticton Community Arts Society.  - Steve Kidd/Western News
Dream team — Jennifer Vincent, cofounder of CoWork Penticton, consults with DPA executive director Kerri Milton and Penmar owner Jim Morrison, prior to announcing the restoration of the theatre. All three are directors of the new Penticton Community Arts Society.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

The Penticton Community Arts Society is convinced the Penmar Theatre still has many years of life still left in it.

Jennifer Vincent, co-founder of CoWork Penticton and a director of the society, explained the group’s plans to make the theatre an entertainment hub again, restoring it not just to its former glory, but as a centre for a wide range of community entertainment.

Vincent was joined Thursday by fellow society directors Kerri Milton, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association and former manager of the Penmar, and Jim Morrison, principal of Wildstone Construction and owner of the theatre, Thursday, to announce their plans for the old theatre, which closed when the Landmark Cinema 7 opened a year ago.

“I know in my heart this is great for Penticton. We need the facility,” said Morrison.

“You will be amazed come the end of April what it is going to look like and what we can do with it.”

The first step is to reunite two of the theatre’s four auditoriums, which will result in a theatre of approximately 350 seats. It’s also the first step in a plan that will see the auditorium restored to its original size in years to come, bringing it up to 650 seats.

“The result is a facility that is usable for presentation of movies, live music, live theatre, speakers’ series and many community events,” said Vincent.

“A clear demand was identified for a variety of film types that are not currently being shown in the region, including ethnic, foreign, second-run and children’s films.”

Morrison is excited by the possibilities for the new theatre. He said this is the best use for the building.

“We were actually approached by a furniture company, it has high ceilings and big rooms, and that is just not the right use,” said Morrison. “I have been in Penticton since 1989. I want to see downtown happen again and this will help.”

Though the first phase won’t be completed until April 2015, the new society is planning a special opening for Dec. 7 to show off their plans and start gathering community support.

Along with a display of plans for the building, there will be a two-part event, starting with a Christmas cartoon series in the afternoon, finishing up by 4:30 p.m. so families can still get to the Santa Claus Parade.

In the evening, there will be an event with a 50s theme, the era the theatre was built. After a presentation and entertainment, it culminates in a screening of the sing-along version of the musical Grease.

“I love the 50s. That’s the era I grew up in,” said Penticton city councillor John Vassilaki, who remembers paying a nickel to watch a movie at the Penmar in his youth. He’s glad to see the Penmar coming back into play.

“It will really give a huge expansion to our entertainment area downtown,” said Vassilaki.

Colleen Pennington, Penticton’s economic development officer, also sees the reopening of the Penmar as fitting well with the city’s strategic priorities for the downtown.

“It’s wonderful to see a community group come together to figure out a strategy that is sustainable to get this building back open and contributing to the community,” she said, adding that it will help draw people to the downtown and increase economic activity.

Work on phase one begins in December, and a more formal gala grand opening is on the books for late April.

Tickets for the Dec. 7 event are $10 and are available through the society’s new website, www.penmar.ca, along with more information about the project.

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Community Events, December 2014

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