Movie theatre operator Rahim Manji outside the Hollywood 3 Cinema in Newton in June 2021. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Movie theatre operator Rahim Manji outside the Hollywood 3 Cinema in Newton in June 2021. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

BUSINESS

‘Hard decision’ to close doors of Surrey’s Hollywood 3 Cinema, says operator of movie theatre

Rahim Manji began operating the theatre in 2008, and it’s been around for close to three decades

** This story was updated with additional information at 1:35 p.m. Dec. 20.

The doors of Hollywood 3 Cinema in Newton will close forever on Dec. 29, after a final week of movies there.

“We will be closing our doors after that for good,” the Manji family, which has operated the theatre for 14 years, wrote Tuesday (Dec. 20) in an email highlighting movie listings for the week.

“We thank you all for always being there for us and supporting our theatre. Unfortunately, we just aren’t able to continue. It’s been a hard decision to close our doors, (and we) would have never lasted this long without your help.”

Owner/manager Rahim Manji took over Hollywood 3 operations in 2008, and figures the movie theatre has been in business in that location for close to 30 years, at least a couple decades prior to his arrival.

This week’s closure can be blamed on a couple of factors, he said.

“The lack of (movies) is the biggest hurdle, because the (chain theatres) are holding on to them longer, and people just didn’t come back after COVID,” Manji said in a phone call Tuesday afternoon.

“People just weren’t coming to movies in this location anymore. When we used to have a couple, 300 people a day, we’re at like, six and 15 people. My biggest thing was trying to keep it open for the neighbourhood and also my employees. We’re down to six (employees), a skeleton crew for the final week.

“It’s not for a lack of trying,” he added. “I mean, we’re the cheapest theatre in B.C. You know, we tried.”

In South Surrey, the Manji family operates the Caprice Theatre on King George Boulevard, and also ran the Rialto on 152 Street until September 2020. That month, the theatre closed after the landlord hiked the rent by nearly 200 per cent.

Located in a corner of the shopping plaza off 138 Street, the Hollywood screens second-run movies that have been in chain theatres for several weeks, while the Caprice shows newer, first-run titles, including mid-December releases “Avatar: The Way of the Water” and the Whitney Houston biopic “I Want to Dance With Somebody.”

It’s business as usual at the Caprice, Manji said, but not in Newton.

“The landlords, Anthem Properties, were really, really good to me,” he noted. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to stay as long as I did.”

He’s been told that the space will not reopen as a movie theatre once he moves out his projection system, seats and other equipment.

“It’s gone, 100 per cent. They’re not going to put a theatre in there anymore,” Manji said. “I think they (Anthem) have some sort of plan for the space, but they haven’t shared what that’s going to be.”

Jenna Walsh, Anthem Properties’ communications manager, said plans for the nearly 12,000-square-foot space are still being finalized and can’t be shared publicly just yet.

In B.C., operating a movie theatre was difficult business during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with government-ordered closures followed by capacity restrictions.

All movies theatres in the province were twice ordered closed in 2020, in March for a few months and again in November, meaning many months of no business. In June 2021, the Hollywood and other theatres in B.C. reopened after one long winter/spring in the dark.

“Very little was available to us movie theatre operators, as grants, and we have been one of the hardest-hit industries — more than most,” Manji said at the time.

Last Sunday morning (Dec. 18), the FIFA World Cup final soccer game was shown in two theatre auditoriums at the Hollywood, in a “watch party” fundraiser for Surrey-based Muslim Food Bank and Community Services.

“They brought in a few hundred people, and those are the kinds of events we do, to help people raise money, you know,” Manji said.

After Dec. 29, the Hollywood will be stripped of equipment.

“We’ll take out as much as we can,” Manji said. “It’s a big expense to even close the theatre. We’ve been beating a dead horse, and it’s not over yet. We still have to pay an exorbitant amount of money just to clear the space now.

“The seats, some of them will go to our Pitt Meadows theatre, and the rest of them we’ll have to dump,” he added. “Hopefully someone will buy some of the projection equipment, because we paid an arm and a leg for that, and just finished paying it off – a little bit left on that.”

In the Hollywood’s final week, from Dec. 23 to 29, the movies shown are “Violent Night, “Ticket to Paradise,” “DC League of Super Pets,” “Lyle Lyle Crocodile” and “Black Adam.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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