The new owners of the Frederick Twin Cinemas are considering major renovations to update the theatre’s aging interior —provided they get support from the community.
Sherry Irani, who recently purchased the cinema at the Frederick Mall in Kitchener with her husband Sam, says part of their new vision for the theatre is to broaden the audience base by doubling the number of screens from two to four.
"When we don't have to pay for all the expansions, we would be able to keep the prices low for the locals," said Sherry Irani in an interview.
"The only reason why we are even thinking about this expansion is if the locals are able to help us. It would make the cinema not just a historical place, but a community. Imagine if we were able to pay for these renovations or get these renovations started not just from our own budget but from the locals being able to help us."
The Frederick Twin Cinemas, which first opened in 1979, are one of the last independently-owned cinemas in Waterloo Region. With only two screens, it has struggled in comparison to larger multiplex chains.
The Frederick has developed a reputation for a family crowd and for cheap tickets — a weekday matinee for a family of four costs $20.
"It doesn't hit the pocketbook as hard. And you're able to keep coming and the kids are happy when they get to see these movies at the theatre", said David Schill, who came to the theatre to watch an afternoon movie with his son.
Changes will take time
The theatre's family appeal is one of the qualities that caught the Iranis' interest — but they also want to broaden their customer base by catering to an older crowd with later show times.
"We want to be able to let the locals know that we're not just family-oriented. We're able to appeal to everything that every other cinema can, except that we'll keep the low price and we'll make sure that it stays [open]," she said.
For regular customer Naomi Stansfield, expanding the theatre to bring in larger audiences raises a number of questions.
"What's the traffic going to be like? Are there going to be lines? You know we can normally come a little bit later to see a show and we can still get in to see a show," said Stansfield.
Irani, however, said it may take some time before changes happen.
"Right now, we're just settling in. We're just making sure the cinema is running, before we get into any of this stuff."
The Iranis had operated their own theatre for one year in Georgetown, until their lease ran out and was given to Dollarama.
Irani says the experience motivates her to keep the Frederick Twin Cinemas open.
"A lot of the locals were really disappointed. Actually we had to tell them during one of the busiest movies and they were all very disappointed," she said. "They all rallied together, but it wasn't enough. And we don't want that to happen again here. We want to be a community and we want to make the community happy to see that their cinema stayed."
Currently, the Iranis are living in Mississauga, but say they are willing to move to the Region to "make sure we’re part of the community."