Curtain rises on downtown theatre

Vicki Gerrits didn’t want to see another set of condos in the Penticton downtown core, so she sat on her family’s much-sought-after property for years.



Vicki Gerrits didn’t want to see another set of condos in the Penticton downtown core, so she sat on her family’s much-sought-after property for years.

Finally, the environmental certification that they needed arrived to forge a deal with Landmark Cinemas in the early part of 2011, and with that the site for a new movie theatre was officially announced last Friday.

“To me it was always my dad’s property and something that he saw as being a really key property in Penticton, so I wanted to be able to put something there that would give back to Penticton. When there were offers on the table I waited because I always wanted to go with the cinema because I thought that would energize the downtown core,” said Gerrits. “I would love to be able to sit in one of the restaurants that is down by the theatre and watch all the people coming and going and realize that site now has rejuvenated the downtown core of Penticton.”

In 2005 Landmark Cinemas announced they were going to build a new theatre on the Westminster Avenue site now occupied by Liquidation World. Environmental, design concept and parking plans were all roadblocks faced by the company. Then in 2010 Landmark Cinemas announced they would build their new theatre at the proposed Channel Crossing Shopping Centre on the Penticton Indian Reserve. Once again delays faced by the developers stalled that plan, a bridge to connect the end of Green Avenue to the site was the culprit. But the environmental issues cleared up in February, and the Liquidation World site presented itself once again.

“Because we have been delaying this too long, the moment that the opportunity opened up to revisit the downtown site we extracted ourselves from Channel Crossing. We are certain the Channel Crossing will continue and will proceed in due course once they get through the issues they have to deal with, but we just don’t want to wait for it. This new opportunity downtown let us have the cinema open many, many months before the Channel Crossing,” said Landmark Cinemas president Brian McIntosh.

Expected to be open by late spring of 2012, the new site will be the home of a 24,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, seven-screen multiplex cinema. Full stadium seating from over 1,200 wide, high-backed seats promises comfort and leg room to patrons. Digital sound, large curved screens and RealD 3D technology are also highlights of the new theatre. The existing Pen Mar Cinema will close on the opening of the new Landmark Cinema.

“The Landmark Cinema, Penticton will become the entertainment destination for the South Okanagan, presenting the newest first-run movies and also alternative entertainment content including opera, live theatre, concerts and sporting events,” said McIntosh.

At least two restaurants also are being considered for the development. McIntosh said the property management group would also like to have the corner piece of the property where Budget Rentals currently is. P.J. Mallen, who has been retained as the architect for the theatre project, said they would be looking at local contractors, tradespeople and trying to source as much supply locally as they can.

“I think this is enormous. It gives us that opportunity to move forward in terms of creating that nighttime entertainment district and creating the vibrancy at night that we have lacked. We certainly have it in terms of nightclubs, but a steady stream for instance on a Wednesday night in November,” said Barb Haynes, president of the Downtown Penticton Association. “This will give an opportunity for us to really build off the flow of traffic coming into watch movies and the draw that Landmark Cinemas has, not just here in Penticton but in the South Okanagan. They have regular customers coming from Princeton, Oliver, Tulameen and places like Tonasket.”

Haynes said there were concerns from downtown business owners when it was announced the theatre would be built away from the core.

“I think there was a sense of loss, and that is partly what spurred us on to really have conversations with the Gerrits and Landmark Cinemas. Along with David Arsenault of the economic development office, we worked really hard to see if we could move this project along. It is exciting to see it come now,” said Haynes.

 

Liquidation World will close on Nov.1 and demolition of that building will commence shortly after to begin construction on the new theatre.