Historic Paramount Theatre in Kelowna to be redeveloped as restaurant

Kelowna's historic Paramount Theatre is set to become a restaurant "imminently" according to the theatre's COO. The City says they're interested in preserving the heritage value of its distinctive sign.

Theatre and its sign have been a mainstay on Bernard Avenue

Kelowna's Paramount Theatre. The current tenant, Landmark Cinemas, says the owner wants to redevelop it as a restaurant "immediately." (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Kelowna's historic Paramount Theatre will soon show its last film.

Urban planning manager Terry Barton confirmed to Radio West that the owners of the commercial space have plans to redevelop the theatre, which cinematreasures.org reports is 67 years old.

"They basically want to convert the old theatre ... into a commercial restaurant operation," Barton told Radio West's Josh Page. "Such a proposal, if it does come forward, would need a form and character development permit. It would come before council for consideration."

The large, vintage Paramount sign reaching high into the air is a staple of downtown Kelowna, and Barton says the city will have discussions about potentially preserving the sign, although it is currently not protected for heritage value.

"It is something … that the city would see as something distinctive to the character of Bernard Avenue, and something we hope we can work with the applicant to incorporate into a scheme," he said. "It's certainly an objective we'll try and pursue."

Bill Walker, COO of Landmark Cinemas, the current tenant of the building, which is owned by a third-party landlord, says business simply hasn't been good enough.

"The economics of a downtown movie theatre have been challenged for some time, and we had signaled to the landlord that over the long term, we weren't going to be there and be a viable option to really support the economics of what the landlord felt he needed," Walker said.

Walker says the Paramount was hurt by a lack of parking and competition from other theatres in Kelowna.

He says the landlord wants to begin redevelopment "imminently."

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