Will multi-use theatres become the new small town cinema?

I grew up in West Vancouver. Up until the time I left for university, West Van had two movie theatres operating a total of five cinemas–the Odeon (it had a great marquee) and the Park Royal.

Since the latter closed in 1999, there have been no movie theatres in West Van. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to drive over to North Vancouver.

Recently, the Kay Meek Theatre–a community theatre attached to West Vancouver Secondary School–started showing movies on Monday and Tuesday nights (I previously wrote about the Kay Meek). The films tend to be recent, major independent fare like I Am Love or Exit Through the Gift Shop. I know somebody who works at the Kay Meek, and movie nights are reportedly very well attended.

While up in Sechelt over Christmas, Julie and I were looking for something to do in inclement weather. We discovered that the Raven’s Cry Theatre, a multi-use theatre operated by the Sechelt First Nations band. It’s a charming 274-seat space apparently used for all sorts of events: “plays, concerts, dance and first-run movies”.

For years, the number of cinemas across the country seem to be shrinking, or at least conglomerating into suburban googleplexes. I’ve often wondered, even with digital projection and some flexibility from movie distributors, whether there was a way forward for small towns which have lost their cinema.

This re-purposing of another performance space seems to be the solution. Do you know of other small towns that show movies this way?

I snapped the dodgy photo at the top of this post as we drove past Gibsons Cinema, a 214-seat theatre. Interestingly, it’s housed in a building originally designed by Arthur Erickson.


  1. Whenever my fiancee and I are visiting her folks up in Halfmoon Bay, we usually swing by the Raven’s Cry to catch whatever might be showing. I can’t point my finger on it, but there’s something that make watching big screen movies in such a small setting that much better. We’ve also watched a pantomine one year and have seen a couple concerts there as well.

  2. Now the Raven’s Cry Theatre has taken it further with all the Live in HD via Satellite presentations of Met Opera, National Theatre Live (London) and the LA Phil series. We receive so many thanks for bringing in the alternative content.
    Incidentally, we were the first independent theatre in the world to offer the Met Opera Live in HD series. Quite something for a town of less than 10,000 folks.
    In these days of illegal downloading and dimished attendance figures, diversification seems to be the answer.

  3. Also- the Raven’s Cry Theatre is leased out (arm’s length) to my husband and myself (non-band members). They do not operate it.

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