British Columbia

Former manager laments loss of movie-theatre 'magic' as North Vancouver's Esplanade closes

The theatre, located just steps away from the Lonsdale Quay, has been around for almost 30 years under different owners. It’s screening its last movies and closing the doors on April 2.

Long-standing theatre screening its last movies on April 2

The theatre in North Vancouver has been running for nearly three decades. (Google Maps/screenshot)

The end credits are rolling for North Vancouver's Esplanade movie theatre.

The theatre, located just steps away from the Lonsdale Quay, has been around for almost 30 years under different owners, but will be screening its last movies and closing its doors on April 2.

The long-standing movie theatre is currently owned by Cineplex, which is opening a new multi-screen theatre a short drive away at the Park Royal mall. The Esplanade building has been put up for lease.

"It's sad to see it go because those old-school theatres have a nostalgia around them that comes from being little kids and sitting in those cricketing seats," said Josephine Santiago, a former manager at the Esplanade.

"At the same time, it's exciting to see what new things are coming out — that new technology and everything that comes out with the bigger theatres."

'There's magic behind old theatres'

Part of the issue is that moviegoers increasingly expect a more luxurious film-watching experience, with comfortable reclining chairs and all the VIP snazz, Santiago said.

"There are people who don't know the treasures of old theatres and the history that comes with them," she told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"There's magic behind old theatres."

Josephine Santiago has been in the movie theatre business for two decades, during which time four of the cinemas she's worked at in the Lower Mainland have closed. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Optimism despite closures

The Esplanade is one of several older theatres closing in the Lower Mainland in the past few years. Venues on Granville Street and near the Oakridge Centre in Vancouver, for example, are also packing it up.

The popular Rio Theatre at Commercial and Broadway faced an uncertain future for months on end and was only recently saved thanks to intense fundraising.

Santiago, who currently works at Landmark Cinemas in New Westminster, has been in the cinema business for more than two decades. The Esplanade is the fourth theatre she's worked at that is now closing.

But Santiago said she is still optimistic about the future of movie theatres despite the growth of streaming services and on-demand movies tempting people to stay at home.

"I don't think it's a dying industry, to be honest, even though a lot of people say that they think it is," she said.

"It's still a different feeling when you watch a movie in a theatre … the smell of popcorn when you walk, the way people greet you into the theatre — there's magic around it, still."

North Vancouver's Esplanade theatre, located just steps away from the Lonsdale Quay, has been around for almost 30 years under different owners. It's screening its last movies and closing the doors on April 2. 5:44

With files from The Early Edition

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