North Van’s Park & Tilford Cineplex permanently closed

The Cineplex theatre at Park & Tilford has had its final curtain.

The company closed all 165 theatres across Canada in March due to COVID-19, but the 1,382-seat Brooksbank Avenue location won’t be among those reopening, Cineplex has confirmed

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With Cineplex closing its Lower Lonsdale theatre in 2019, it leaves Park Royal as the only place to catch a big screen flick on the North Shore.

“We thank the community for their patronage over the years, and look forward to welcoming them at neighbouring Cineplex Cinemas Park Royal and VIP,” said Sarah Van Lange, executive director of communications. “I’ll note that our intent is to repurpose the Park & Tilford theatre space, which we’ll have more details on at a later date.”

One person already mourning the Cineplex is Michael Thoma, chair of the school of motion picture arts at Capilano University.

“I think it's a tragic loss for the community,” he said. “It was a bit of an older theatre. It wasn't super high end - you know, the seating or food or anything like that. But it was a community cinema. I think it was the local place you go. That was the advantage that it had.”

The theatre’s management had an agreement with the North Vancouver Arts Council to bring in award-winning entries from the Toronto International Film Festival. But before the main attraction, the arts council would show a student film coming out of the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation and hold a Q and A session with the students who made it.

“So people on the North Shore got a taste of these globally recognized films,” Thoma said. “Our students loved it. Just absolutely loved it… What a great cultural moment this was. It's just tragic that this is being lost.”

Bricks and mortar theatres have been facing challenging time, with audiences spending more time with home streaming services and film distributors following them there, Thoma said.

To win audiences back, many theatres have added bars, VIP seating or higher-end food options – selling a night out at the movies as an all-in-one experience.

Because of COVID-19 physical distancing rules drive-in theatres are poised for a comeback, Thoma noted.

“You thought those were gone for good,” he said. “Interesting, that style movie going may return again, which is kind of bizarre.”

But there’s something Netflix and Amazon can’t replicate, Thoma said – the heightened experience of sharing a film’s emotional impact with an engrossed crowd.

“I think the cinema experience will continue because people like seeing movies together,” Thoma said.

Thoma is predicting moviegoers will be back when COVID-19 is under control. And while he’ll miss his local theatre at Park & Tilford, he doesn’t have any worry for the medium itself.

“Film making goes through these changes, but the experience of film continues,” he said. “Here we are in a challenging period where we're making films for people to see together but we're not allowed to. We’re not supposed to be gathering in groups, but film will reinvent itself. It always does.”

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