The operator of the Ridge Theatre says it's premature to talk of its demise.
Leonard Schein, president of Festival Cinemas, told the Straight by phone that his company has a lease until September 30, 2013 in the strip mall on the northwest corner of Arbutus Street and West 16th Avenue in Vancouver.
"No tenant has been served with any notice under a demolition clause, which exists in all our leases," he said.
Schein suggested that media reports of the looming closure of the Ridge were triggered by a sign that Cressey Development Group placed on the block-long building.
"They haven't been to the city yet to get approval to develop the property," he added. "We're talking a minimum six months to a year before anything happens to that shopping centre."
Cressey vice president Hani Lammam told the Straight that the company plans to apply for a development permit to build a mixed-use project on the site with residential condos on top of one level of retail. He indicated that Cressey has a "partially completed" tenancy with a "major-brand" food retailer, which he wouldn't identify, to occupy approximately 22,000 square feet.
"I'm sympathetic to a lot of the issues with respect to single-screen theatres," Lammam said. "And there has been a lot of effort to save them, especially when they're single-purpose buildings. So I appreciate that type of situation. But in this case, they're part of a much larger building."
There are 10 other tenants in the mall: McDonald's, Arbutus-Ridge Medical-Dental Centre, True Value Hardware, Ridge Garden Restaurant, Kis Hair Design, Educational Book Supply, Varsity Ridge Bowling, Happy Laundromat, Underwriters Insurance, and Open Door Yoga.
Lammam revealed that Schein had approached Cressey and inquired about the possibility of including an eight-screen multiplex in a new building on the site.
Cressey considered the idea of a multiplex, according to Lammam, but concluded that it would have "tremendous parking requirements", take up too much of the space, and possibly alienate nearby neighbours.
"It would probably require 40 feet of clear ceiling height because of the stadium seating that goes along with it, and we have a height restriction in the zone," Lammam added.
Schein said that the Ridge was built in 1950 and to his knowledge, it has never been designated as a heritage building that must be preserved. It was added to the city's list of "recent landmarks", which includes 22 post–Second World War buildings of local, regional, and national significance. He pointed out that neighbourhood theatres like the Ridge provide first jobs for kids in the neighbourhood and offer a venue for events for schools, nonprofit groups, festivals, and local charities.
"I've always supported neighbourhood theatres," he said.