Paramount Theatre will go dark this spring

Posted by on Friday, March 4th, 2016 at 10:24am.

Its curtains for Kelowna’s historic landmark theatre. The Paramount Theatre, which opened on Bernard Avenue just after the Second World War, will spin the final reel before the arrival of summer.

When the lease expires May 31, theatre-owner Landmark Cinemas Canada will close the doors and the landlord will likely move forward with redevelopment plans.  A spokesman has said that lack of downtown parking was problematic for the theatre and subsequent competition from other theatres in Kelowna and West Kelowna.

There are still two other theatres, so Kelowna residents won’t be entirely without the movie part of the dinner and a movie combo.  And Landmark has stated that some Paramount employees will still have jobs within the organization.

It’s not unusual for older theatres to be repurposed. Some historic theatres in major cities have been undergoing a renaissance as they represent a period of time where glamour and atmosphere was a major part of the movie-going experience.  Anyone can watch a movie at home but there’s something about going out to the movies that still captivates our imagination.

As urban centres strive to make downtown areas alive and viable, developers are looking at ways to save heritage theatres from retirement, and Kelowna is no different. Some residents have expressed concern that if the theatre closes, fewer people will come downtown and the character of the neighbourhood won’t improve but will decline. The new owners of the property, Ronmor Developers Inc. of Calgary which bought the property in 2013, plan on keeping as much of the character as possible and have publicly stated that they are sensitive to the concerns of Kelowna residents.

Plans for the building are in preliminary stages, but city planner Ryan Smith told Kelowna media that the Paramount marquee will be incorporated into whatever development takes place because of its historical significance and that Ronmor wants to keep as many of the “bones” of the structure as possible.  The marquee has been part of the fabric of Bernard Avenue for 67 years.

The Paramount opened in June 1949 with enough seating for nearly 850 patrons. Over the years it was converted into a triple theatre.

It’s a 14,000 square foot piece of land which Ronmor has dubbed Paramount Court.  It may house other businesses such as a restaurant or a retail store but it’s still early days.  Whatever happens with the building, Ronmor has assured the public that the company’s goal is to improve the Bernard Avenue streetscape and atmosphere of Kelowna’s downtown area.

Other cities have been able to preserve theatres, such as Calgary’s Palace Theatre, opened during the First World War which closed in the 1980s and after several incarnations has found a new use being Flames Central, a sports bar and concert venue.  The Orpheum and the York Theatres in Vancouver have been saved from the wrecking ball.

Many old and glamourous theatres in Minneapolis have been restored and are home to intimate concerts and live theatre.

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