Posted: Nov 19, 2008, 4:24 PM
Elle est déjà vide!
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Big Bad Ottawa
Mayfair Cinema will carry on!
A rare piece of good news when it comes to these things. I've personally seen so many of these old neighbourhood cinemas wastefully and wilfully closed by major companies that have no idea anymore what to do to survive.
The Mayfair Theatre is the oldest surviving atmospheric cinema in Ottawa and the best preserved in all of Canada - it's astonishingly intact from its original days in 1932. Score a victory for Old Ottawa South here. With the new owners it will be a much more interesting place film-wise (although there were all-night music and VJ events there for a while after the last movie).
Curtain to rise on new Mayfair
Partners plan 'state-of-the-art' upgrades to theatre
Don Butler Canwest News Service
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
OTTAWA - Facing closing at the end of the month, the Mayfair Theatre has found new life thanks to a self-described "dream team of film-loving investors" with ambitious plans that could even include serving alcohol to film-goers.
The partners -- John Yemen, a film scholar and entrepreneur, Paul Gordon, the Mayfair's current film conservator and part-time projectionist, and filmmakers Lee Demarbre and Ian Driscoll -- will announce Tuesday that they have leased the 76-year-old Bank Street cinema for 10 years from its Vancouver owner, Stephen Ng.
The Mayfair will close in December while they refresh the interior and make technical improvements. They plan to reopen with a party and open house on Jan. 2, 2009.
"It's going to be state of the art by the time we open it," Mr. Demarbre said in an interview. Among other things, his group plans to install Dolby digital sound and replace the sagging seats. "We want people to be comfortable at the Mayfair," he said.
Word trickled out in August that Mr. Ng had balked at the cost of needed upgrades and planned to close Ottawa's oldest surviving movie theatre Nov. 30.
Almost immediately, supporters mobilized to save the theatre, built in 1932. On Oct. 8, city council voted to designate the Mayfair a heritage building, citing its painted ceilings, ornate plaster façades, faux balconies, wrought ironwork and ornamental glass windows.
The heritage designation was key to his group's ability to lease the theatre, Mr. Demarbre said. "There were apparently people interested in putting condominiums there. We couldn't compete with that kind of money."
Despite "big money pressure" for redevelopment on the site, Mr. Demarbre said Mr. Ng is happy the Mayfair will survive. "His desire was to have someone come and run it as a cinema," he said.
Mr. Demarbre's group will scrap the Mayfair's strategy of showing second-run commercial films in favour of more eclectic programming -- everything from art house, foreign and Canadian films to midnight screenings and festivals.
The only Ottawa theatre showing similar fare is the Bytowne, a thriving repertory cinema on Rideau Street. "We'd be interested in bringing those types of movies to the south end of Ottawa," Mr. Demarbre said.
The Bytowne's owner, Bruce White, is considered the best programmer in Canada, he said. "I don't think Bruce has anything to worry about from the Mayfair. If anyone can appreciate friendly competition, it's Bruce White."
Mr. Demarbre fondly recalls watching Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo's action classic, The Killer, at the Mayfair. "You'd bring popguns and run up and down the aisle and shoot at each other."
In recent years, the Mayfair has gotten away from such inspired mayhem, he said. "I'm surprised at the kind of movies they're showing. It's very commercial, stuff you can go see at the Rainbow theatre and stuff that's available on video at almost the same time as it's playing at the Mayfair. It's not very inspiring."
Mr. Demarbre's group has been inspired by theatres such as the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, and Brewvie's Cinema Pub in Salt Lake City, Utah. Both serve alcohol with their flicks, something Mr. Demarbre said his group is keen to do.
"If they can do it in Utah," he said, "we can do it here. We want it to be fun to go to the movie theatre. We've got to get people out of their seats."
Mr. Demarbre and his partners have been trying for years to open a repertory cinema in Ottawa. They approached Mr. Ng about the Mayfair several years ago, "but he didn't bite," Mr. Demarbre said.
When the Great Canadian Theatre Company moved into its new building at Wellington and Holland, they tried to acquire its old building on Gladstone. They also looked at a theatre-turned-church and a furniture store in the Westboro area.
Recently, out of frustration, they've been showing movies the last Saturday of every month at Club Saw in Arts Court.