The last film I saw at the Garden City Cinema was Inception, which was screened in the summer of 2010. It was not much later, Aug. 31 of that year, that the theatre was shut down.
The cinema was built in 1970 at the same time as the shopping centre. It served West Kildonan, Garden City, The Maples, the North End and northern suburbs and towns with the most recent films. The theatre initially offered one film at a time.
I recall seeing Earthquake, known for its Dolby stereo sound, in that room. At the time, it was breaking new ground and the vibrating in the theatre, we thought, gave us the sensation of the real thing. Years later, the facility was split and the theatre began offering two films simultaneously.
It was convenient having a venue in the neighbourhood that we could walk, cycle or take a short drive to. When the theatre at Northgate opened years later, it wasn’t an issue since it was serving a different clientele.
For me, it wasn’t a safety issue either. I think most moviegoers would say they felt completely at ease or comfortable viewing movies at Garden City. Its closure was a huge loss to our community, according to one former Garden City resident who now lives in East Kildonan. A West Kildonan resident informed me that she doesn’t go to movies anymore and watches most films on TV now.
Personally, I love the big screen. Sure, I can watch movies at home. What I really like, though, is sitting in the theatre, and immersing myself in the sights and sounds that the massive systems designed for larger audiences offer.
We realize, in this part of Winnipeg, that most of the city’s growth has been taking place south of Portage Avenue. However, it is becoming obvious, in a small way with some investments here, that the city is experiencing a mini-boom of sorts that extends to the north end of Winnipeg on occasion.
Lloyd Burdett, operations manager of Riocan Management for Garden City, informed me that the cinema’s lease expired. It wasn’t renewed, he said, due to the new trend of centres with more theatre spaces offering slightly older films at a reduced price, such as what Cinema City Northgate and McGillvray provide. "The decision to close the theatre was not Garden City’s but Famous Players’. We would have been happy for them to continue operating the theatre at the centre," added Burdett.
Would residents of the area Cineplex Garden City served have become more dedicated patrons had they known that it was going to close? Could we have made a difference or do these closures take place at a level at which residents have no input? The real surprise will be to see what takes its place.
Kathy Sing is a Garden City-based writer.
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