Penticton’s Pen-Mar filled with memories

As new theatre opens in Penticton, entertainment editor remembers working on the sticky floors of the Pen-Mar

Sticky floors be gone.

We have been a patient bunch, us movie-goers in Penticton. And finally, today it has all paid off. The glimmering, modern-looking building that has gone up downtown is the home of our new Landmark Cinema 7 Penticton. And, compared to the Pen-Mar, it is a mansion.

I caught myself forgetting that I was in this luxurious new theatre for just a second at a special VIP night on Wednesday, but the wall-to-wall screen brought me back. By habit, I was leaning forward in my chair, trying to keep my legs and arms to myself, when I realized there was actually a head rest I could lean into; and could even spread out a little as I wasn’t encroaching on anyone’s bubble.

As much as I love this new shiny and high-tech theatre, I will always remember the Pen-Mar. It is a bittersweet farewell to a place I worked at behind the concession and as a projectionist.

While popcorn messes and pop spills are no longer part of my life, the memories of working at the Pen-Mar will be the ones that stick. I forged many friendships with the people I worked with, and now, well over a decade later, I am still friends with many of those same people that put on those hideous clip-on maroon bow-ties and buttery aprons each night.

It was a place where work and social lives collided. Even well after shifts were over, I can remember hanging around the theatre — much to the dismay of our non-theatre friends who were also forced to wait for us there.

We would meet for late-night staff showings to preview movies coming out the next day, plaster the windows with black garbage bags and run around the theatre playing laser tag after hours, dance as we cleaned the auditoriums in between matinees and evening shows and would try and one-up each other in sales at the concession. Co-workers dated, broke up and became friends and did it all over again. For others, it was where they took the first steps to building a life together — the sales manager at the Western News met his wife when they both worked at the Pen-Mar.

As a movie-goer, I wont miss the dark, outdated Pen-Mar. Computerized touch screens in the new theatre glow everywhere. Bright LCD screens dot the walls, replacing the brassy coloured, dusty poster frames at the Pen-Mar. As for the movies themselves, they no longer come in canisters full of film, everything is digital.

Now that I am older, it is easy to see where that family and friends type of atmosphere originated at the Pen-Mar. It is evident in how the company runs itself.

On Wednesday, head office staff from Landmark Cinemas, who have probably travelled to Penticton more than any other place these past few years, took time to thank some of their partners, many of whom have worked with the company building theatres for over 20 years. Amazing in a time where the lowest bid usually wins over loyalty.

They thanked the Gerrits family, who sat on the potentially valuable piece of land that the theatre is built on for a long time, waiting for what they wanted to see in downtown Penticton. Opportunities may have been passed up, but they had a vision of what was needed in the city’s core, like many others in local government and business who supported the initiative.

While the Pen-Mar is no longer, the new building will take on its namesake and be a true landmark in the community.

 

 

 

Kristi Patton is the entertainment editor with the Penticton Western News.

 

 

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