Coalition renews call to transform Vancouver’s Hollywood Theatre into non-profit venue

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      On April 16, the City of Vancouver is closing the door on public comments about a new plan to restore the iconic Hollywood Theatre.

      Opened in 1935, the art deco-style cinema on West Broadway was closed and sold to a development company in 2011.

      A previous proposal by the developer to convert the former single-screen theatre into a gym did not push through.

      A new application has been filed with city hall, which ties the renovation of the Hollywood Theatre with a condo development on an adjacent lot to the west.

      As part of the plan, the theatre will be run as a for-profit venture, hosting live music performances, stage plays, movie screenings, and other functions.

      According to the business design included in the development application, the operators will offer discounts for non-profit and free events.

      A group that has advocated for the preservation of the Hollywood Theatre has yet to decide whether or not to endorse the plan.

      Mel Lehan is a spokesperson of the Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition.

      Three years ago, Lehan’s group released a business plan calling on the city to acquire the 3123 West Broadway property and lease it to an organization that will operate it on a non-profit basis.

      The city did not go with the coalition’s suggestion, but Lehan believes it still can.

      “The city has chosen not to do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the power to turn around and do that,” Lehan told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Lehan, the city can offer the developer extra building density in another property in exchange for the theatre.

      He recalled that a few years ago, the developer expressed willingness to trade the theatre for a density transfer on a Granville Street property.

      Lehan was referring to Dino Bonnis, one of two siblings in the family-owned Bonnis Properties.

      “He was trying to get a very, very high density transfer, and the city turned him down,” Lehan said. “But the point is that at some point, he did offer to give it up. So there is that fine area there. That's the sweet spot where he is willing to give it up and the city is willing to negotiate for it.”

      The proposed development involves a six-storey mixed-use building on the adjacent lot at 3133 West Broadway.

      The building will have 40 condo units on top of retail spaces on the ground floor.

      According to the business proposal for the theatre, the venue will be run by David Hawkes and Sean Mawhinney.

      The development application is not subject to a public hearing by council. It will be decided by the city’s director of planning.