Owners of the independent movie theatre Denman Cinemas in the West End say they will be closing their doors at the end of this month.
Naz Jamshedian told the Straight she and her husband Mike received notice from the owner of the building on Comox Street that their short-term lease will not be renewed after September.
Jamshedian said while they had been advised by their landlord that this would be coming at some stage, they were taken aback at the timing. They were hoping to renew their lease for five years starting in October.
“We just didn’t expect it this early,” she said in a phone interview. “We were in quite a bit of shock.”
The Jamshedians took over management of Denman Cinemas less than two years ago, replacing the carpets, bringing in new seating and investing in a brand new projector system.
“The theatre was doing extremely well,” she noted. “We were extremely happy with the outcome of what we were putting in—we were seeing results right away.”
The owner acknowledged the support of West End residents since the theatre re-opened its doors, noting the cinema has acted as a community venue for groups hosting various events, festivals and fundraisers.
“I think they’re going to be very upset,” she said. “The West End community was…I would say the best customers we’ve ever seen."
She noted Mike Jamshedian, who used to manage the Dolphin, New West and Lougheed Mall theatres, got into the business out of a passion for cinema. She also fondly recalls the experience of attending a neighbourhood theatre when she was growing up in Mumbai.
Jamshedian said in addition to the resources they put into revamping Denman Cinemas, the owners have also invested a significant amount of time into the theatre.
“My husband hasn’t had a day off since last year—December 2010,” she said. “He has only been off for maybe let’s say five or six days in total.”
The co-owner said she and her husband were told that a Dollarama would be taking the place of the cinema.
A spokesperson with property owner Siddoo Properties declined to comment on who the next tenant of the building will be, indicating the situation isn’t finalized.
Jamshedian noted while she and her husband hope to continue running a theatre, she’s not optimistic they’ll find another venue.
“Unfortunately I don’t think there are many left at all,” she said.
“We don’t want to get into the same thing of working really hard towards something we like, and then being kicked out because [of] one the rent, and two, they want the demolition to get something else done.
“And that’s what’s happening to these smaller theatres that are there, because the land value keeps rising and obviously there’s no way a theatre with the way it works can afford very high rents.”
Other single-screen theatres in Vancouver that have recently closed include the Hollywood Theatre on West Broadway and Van East Cinemas on Commercial Drive. Burnaby's Station Square Cinemas closed on September 4.
Before it closes at the end of September, Denman Cinemas will host another series of films as part of the Vancouver Retro Cinema Fest, from September 23 to 30.
“We are going to be ending with a blast,” said Jamshedian.