When Naz and Mike Jamshedian took over the Denman Cinemas in December 2010, they sunk roughly 70 grand into renovations, spiffed up the programming, and built themselves a loyal clientele hungry for a diet of offbeat, foreign, and artier-than-average movies on top of the second-run features held over from the West End theatre’s previous life.
“It was very dingy,” says Naz, charitably, speaking to the Straight about the not-so-going concern they inherited a year ago. “It was completely mismanaged. The feedback was terrible that we got from some of the customers. They say the theatre looks so pretty now.”
Aesthetic make-over and enlightened snack policies aside (“There’s fresh popcorn after every show, even if it means we have to throw it out at the end of the night”), the Denman’s biggest asset remains its location (at 1779 Comox Street, a stone’s throw from English Bay), and its size. The Jamshedians made sure to outfit the 425-seater with plenty of leg-room, and—most importantly—a new multi-format projector and Dolby surround sound.
While Hollywood gnashes its teeth over declining attendance, it seems that the Denman is doing a rather good job of filling those new seats, with Naz reporting that they’re used to seeing a lot of repeat custom from what she calls “a close-knit community.” Their policy of renting to small film societies like the First Weekend Club, which screens a new Canadian film each month, is also paying off.
On Thursday (January 26), they’re adding something new to the Denman’s mix with the world premiere of the highly-anticipated Bollywood movie, Agneepath. There’s a sneak preview at 7:30, and then the film goes into nightly rotation until next Thursday.
“I said, ‘Mike, why don’t we bring a little bit of Bollywood into out theatre, too? We’re doing really well with lots of other foreign films, so why not?’” Naz recalls. “And we decided to bring only the biggest blockbusters. There’s a big buzz all over the world for this one.”
Naz, who moved to Vancouver from Mumbai with husband Mike 15 years ago, anticipates that Agneepath will bring in the regulars as well as a mix of folk from outside the West End. And if the quality of the product and the cosy environment isn’t incentive enough, there’s more.
“We offer free validated parking!” she says.