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The Ridge Theatre marks the beginning of the end

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver is saying goodbye to another cultural landmark.

The Ridge Theatre began a 10-day film festival Friday, as it prepares to make way for a condominium development. Leonard Schein has been running the 62-year-old theatre since 1978 and notes a lot has changed since then.

“Originally there was 832 seats but when we changed the seats… seats nowadays are wider than they used to be,” he admits. “People are wider than they used to be!”

He entered the movie business because the kind of films he liked to watch weren’t being shown here at the time.

“I grew up in California and used to see films all the time from foreign countries and old films and when I moved to Vancouver there was nothing like that and after living here for five or six years I said, ‘Maybe the only way to see the films that I enjoy is to lease my own theatre’ and that’s how the Ridge started.”

Movie-going habits and Kitsilano itself have changed a lot since then, too.

The future mixed residential-commercial development slated for the existing Ridge Theatre location in Vancouver

The Ridge, which was also the original home of the Vancouver Film Festival, will be making way for a mixed residential-commercial development, what Schein says is the trend in the theatre business these days.

“It’s not just Vancouver; it’s right across North America. Single-screen neighbourhood theatres are being replaced by multiplexes downtown. At one time, Vancouver had over 50 neighbourhood theatres and now you can count on one hand how many neighbourhood theatres are left,” he figures.

Schein also runs the Park Theatre on Cambie and the Fifth Avenue Cinemas. Both are turning a profit, but he admits he could see a day when they may be be torn down, as well.

“Fifth Avenue Cinemas has a long-term lease going to 2016 and it does very well and the Park Theatre also does very well. We have the same landlord that’s been there since the 80s and he has no intention at this point of certainly developing. But at some point, Cambie [Street], because of the Canada Line construction, will be going through redevelopment as the City approves more density but that’s not anywhere in the near future.”

But for now, Schein seems to have made peace with the fate of the Ridge. “You know, the reality is that people who own property can get a much better return on their investment building condos.”

A final 10-day film festival is underway, showing three movies during the day and four on weekends.

It will feature everything from favourites like Casablanca and the Sound of Music to current Academy Award nominees.

Leonard Schein, owner of the Ridge Theatre

“It’s a goodbye and a thank-you. We’re charging $5 to all these films,” Schein tells us.

A big crowd pleaser was Saturday’s final midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a movie that saw the theatre run afoul of City Hall back in the early 80s.

“With all of the people dressing up as the opposite sex and the costumes they wore, it was inappropriate for Vancouver, I guess, at that time and so they passed a bylaw prohibiting the Ridge Theatre from showing Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight.”

There will be a repeat screening next Saturday at 9:20 p.m.

While the Ridge is fading to black, Schein is happy to report portions of the venue will live on.

“Cineplex Entertainment has agreed to buy the stained glass windows that we have in the lobby and they’re going to backlight them and then use them in one of their theatres. We’ve found homes for the curtains in the theatre. So, we’re in the process of finding various homes for items because we would like as little as possible to be destroyed by the wrecking ball when that happens.”

The festival runs until February 3rd and the developer will take over the site sometime in March.