Vancouver network proposes Kitsilano's Hollywood Theatre become a documentary-dedicated venue

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      While the campaign to save the Rio Theatre on East Broadway nears its deadlines, a campaign to resurrect another movie theatre on Broadway—but on the West Side—is underway.

      Kitsilano's art-deco Hollywood Theatre at 3123 Broadway opened in 1935 and ended its run as a movie theatre in 2011. It was leased to Point Grey Community Church in 2012 before closing in 2013.

      However, a public hearing for a new redevelopment plan will be held tomorrow (July 17) at Vancouver city hall.

      The developer, 4184 Investments, is proposing to resurrect the theatre and transform it into a for-profit performing arts centre on the condition that the city allows it to develop a six-storey mixed-use commercial and residential building to the west of the theatre despite current zoning restrictions.

      Visualization of a redevelopment proposal by 4184 Investments, Ltd., which includes a restored Hollywood Theatre.

      While a group called Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition had previously arisen, a new group has formed with a different objective.

      The Hollywood Cinema Network was formed by filmmaker Michèle Smolkin, independent film programmer and DOXA Documentary Film Festival senior programming advisor Dorothy Woodend, and DOXA's guest curator of the French French program Thierry Garrel.

      Smolkin, Woodend, and Garrel have circulated an open letter dated July 5 that supports the proposal by 4184 Investments and builds upon it, and are seeking signatures by local screen industry organizations and individuals.

      While the proposal indicates that the venue would host live music concerts, arts events, corporate rentals, and more, the network seeks to ensure that one-third of programming be devoted to cinema programming.

      By phone, Garrel told the Georgia Straight that the majority of local film festivals are "enthused" about their idea.

      "It’s obvious that in Vancouver the purpose-built independent theatres like the VIFF or the Cinematheque are vastly oversubscribed and so it means there is a real lack of venues to have all these events of all the festivals," he said.

      Garrel cited the example of the Hot Docs Ted Rogers theatre in Toronto (formerly known as the Bloor Cinema or Bloor Hot Docs Cinema), which opened in 2012 and is dedicated solely to screening documentaries.

      As a single-screen theatre on Vancouver's West Side, Garrel explained that a documentary-only venue would help the theatre carve out a specific identity. For instance, it would differ from the Rio Theatre, which offers a mix of live acts and a wide range of film screenings, including Hollywood fare and domestic films.

      "We don't want to…oppose their proposal but to endorse their project," he said, "as long as they are really firmly committed to not only turn the venue into a viable cinema venue…but also committed to having special rates to welcome the different festivals and especially to show documentaries."

      The letter is asking the city to include provisions in their community-use agreement with the developers that "a considerable part of the programming is dedicated to film screenings at affordable rates for small non-profit organizations".

      Garrel said that they will have speakers at public hearing tomorrow at city hall.

      "Preserving the material heritage is something but preserving the spiritual heritage, the soul, it was part of the beating heart of the city as a cinema venue," he said of the Hollywood Theatre.

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