One thousand and sixty-two days – or two years, 10 months and 27 days.
That is how much time passed between Dec. 8, 2019 – when Star Cinema showed its last movie (Ford v. Ferrari) at its historic location on Third Street – and its scheduled soft re-opening at the same location but as part of a brand new condominium building this Friday (Nov. 4).
And in between the business weathered a global pandemic that not only forced its temporary location on Fifth Street to shut down for several months but also upended the industry by fostering new media habits. While owner Sandy Oliver and general manager Lindsay Pomper know these circumstances well, their focus lies on the future.
“People have been enthusiastically coming through construction gates to try to say, ‘hi, we are so glad you are back,’” said Oliver. “Everybody from volunteers to customers are keen to have a cinema back in town.”
Pomper had a comparable experience, while getting her passport renewed two weeks ago.
When the clerk noticed that Pomper worked at Star Cinema, the woman professed her love for it and asked when it would re-open. That level of excitement is rewarding, said Pomper.
“People have been working hard on so many aspects and there is so much still to do, but so many people have worked hard to make this pretty,” added Oliver.
Star Cinema plans to show Crawdads at 6:45 p.m., Black Adam at 7:00 p.m, and Ticket to Paradise at 7:15 p.m. on Friday.
“It’s all about variety, and then we are bringing back the best of the summer (including Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis),” said Oliver. The theatre also plans to hold a more official grand opening later in November.
Star Cinema has been an iconic business in Sidney since opening its door in 1998. A community theatre in the most genuine sense, it has withstood prevailing trends favouring large multiplexes located on suburban fringes rather than in downtown cores.
Its intensely loyal clientele has supported the theatre through thick and thin over the years at its historic location. The new build maintains that spirit with contemporary upgrades to the moviegoing experience such as improved sight lines and additional space, among other features.
While the new theatre is not a blank slate by virtue of being inside a condominium building, various elements stand out right away, starting with the cinema’s outdoor signage.
Inside, its lobby offers moviegoers not only more space, while they wait for popcorn at the expanded concession stands, but also room for events like children’s birthday parties.
“One of the biggest things we have heard from customers leading to this building is that they wanted a bigger lobby,” said Pomper, having pointed earlier to the lobby wall featuring a mural of buttery popcorn. Other elements that will improve the experience are large washrooms, added Pomper. “And it’s a community theatre,” she said. “We want people to use it in different ways.”
The magic of the silver screen itself unfolds across three rooms, featuring space for audiences of up to 60, 115 and 130-plus people with the smallest of the three theatres available for private film parties.
The new Star Cinema also includes two legacy items from the original theatre — two digital projectors, for which the community fundraised $185,000 in 2013 with some of that money at the time also going toward new seats.
The theatre will also feature a new sound system that will also make it easier for older individuals to follow the action on the screen with the building as a whole 100 per cent accessible. The theatre itself is part of the Cameo condominium complex, a mixed-use development that includes commercial space on the bottom floor and 45 residential units, ranging from 500-square-foot starter studios to 2,500-square-foot luxury penthouses.
Margie Shenduk, director of operations for Casman Properties, said this mix makes the building unique.“We have looked far and wide and as far as we can find, there isn’t another one of these in Canada,” she said.
“Logistically, putting a wooden-framed condo building on top of a movie theatre is actually very rare and quite challenging.”
It took Casman’s entire engineering and architecture team plus outside help to realize the design of the building, she said. This outside help included an acoustic engineer and another engineer, who helped reconcile the contradictory building codes for the theatre and the residential component of the building, added Shenduk.
“The rules clash, so we needed an additional engineer and her sole role was to figure out what the workaround could be.”
Ultimately, Shenduk said Casman is proud to have fit a wide variety of uses into one property. “This is now being coined as Sidney’s entertainment district,” she said. “We have got (two breweries) across the street and now this corner has a whole new vibe. Third (Street) is now inviting people off Beacon (Avenue). There is so much happening in one building. I would say that the Cameo building has way more energy and diversity than other buildings.”
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