The movies are rolling and the corn is popping once again at South Surrey’s Rialto Theatre – part of a shakeup in the Peninsula movie theatre scene that has seen it, and the former Criterion 4, at 24 Avenue and King George Boulevard, become the latest additions to the Newton-based Hollywood 3 chain of neighbourhood theatres.
The twin-screen Rialto, at 1732 152 St., reopened last Friday as Hollywood Cinemas Rialto – now a fully digital operation.
Formerly part of the Criterion Entertainment chain, the theatre closed in April after 20 years, with Criterion citing a “shrinking demand” for 35mm prints and prohibitive costs for shifting to digital.
Hollywood 3 owner Rahim Manji, however, said he is fully committed to neighbourhood theatres and was willing to invest in digital conversion to better serve the local market.
“We didn’t want to raise the ticket prices to pay for digital – that isn’t fair to the customer,” he said, noting he has retained existing staff.
“They know both theatres and they know the people. There’s no reason to change that.”
In an irony of the end of an era in theatre exhibition, the newly renamed Hollywood Cinemas Caprice 4, at 2381 King George Blvd., will keep 35mm equipment for one of its four screens – making it historically the last theatre of its kind in B.C. – for three weeks.
That’s because director Christopher Nolan was determined to release his new film, Interstellar (which opened Wednesday), in 35 mm format – and gave the last eight or 10 film theatres in Canada a two-day lead on their digital competition as an incentive.
Following that run, all four screens will be fully digital, Manji said, noting the only other principal changes will be streamlining operations so that tickets are purchased at the concession counters, rather than separate box offices.
Manji said both theatres will continue to be programmed as local audiences have come to expect, with the Caprice 4 emphasizing first-run features and the Rialto maintaining a selection of the kind of art-house/festival films associated with such Vancouver venues as the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
“We’re continuing that 110 per cent – we’re following the demographic that’s there,” Manji said, noting that the new Rialto program for the week of Nov. 7-13 will offer Bill Murray’s festival hit St. Vincent, and the Kevin Kline-Maggie Smith-Kristin Scott Thomas dramatic comedy My Old Lady.
Manji said his decision to enter the Peninsula market (Hollywood Cinemas also has theatres in Pitt Meadows and Duncan as well as its Surrey flagship) was a natural, given his belief in independent community theatres.
“I’m already in the Surrey market,” he said. “I live here – this is my home. Both of these theatres were in danger. The Rialto was already closed and they were ready to close down (the Criterion 4).
“The big boys are going everywhere – they’re stepping on the little guys. There are only a handful of us left. We’re not a big theatre chain. We’re mom and pop theatres, but we’re the ones who talk to people and we’re the ones who sweep the floors.”
Manji estimates that since reopening the Rialto some 600 people have stopped by to offer personal thanks and he hopes that continuing to provide movie entertainment on the Peninsula will have a spin-off effect for other local businesses.
“Some 10 to 15 per cent of the people we have talked to have been going down to Vancouver since the Rialto closed. We don’t want them to have to go there. If they’re leaving South Surrey and White Rock, they’re filling their tanks with gas and they’re going to restaurants downtown – the money is going from the cities.
“The theatres have a domino effect on the local economy and the infrastructure.”
For information on upcoming films and showtimes at both theatres, visit www.capricecinemas.com or call the Rialto at 541-9527; or the Caprice 4 at 604-531-7456.