'Small is good': Stratford, Ont., cinema with just 13 seats earns world record

A 13-seat movie theatre in Stratford has earned the world record for smallest purpose-built cinema in operation.

Idea for pop-up screen and folding chairs 'snowballed' into cinema

Leigh Cooney, left, is the founder of Little Prince Cine-Lounge in Stratford. It was recently recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest purpose-built cinema in operation on the planet. With Cooney is Carla Coles. (Maaike Roosendaal of Brilliant Images in Stratford)

Tucked between The Red Rabbit restaurant and Dmitri's Shoe and Leather Repair shop in downtown Stratford, Ont., is the smallest purpose-built cinema in operation in the world.

The Little Prince Cine-Lounge in Stratford has just 13 seats. It's just 16.29 square metres in size — approximately the size of a large bedroom — and it recently earned its title from the Guinness Book of World Records.

The cinema's owner and founder Leigh Cooney had a retail store in the space before converting it into a tiny cinema. He says they had a gallery space to support local artists and sometimes did film screenings for amateur filmmakers.

"We enjoyed them so much ...  there was a great response and we thought, Well, wouldn't it be great to have a little screening room in place of the gallery?" he told CBC News.

They considered putting up a screen and putting out folding chairs, but the idea "just kind of snowballed" into the current cinema.

"I started putting out dramatic wallpaper and red velvet curtains," Cooney said. "We kind of ran with it and spent the next couple of years renovating bit-by-bit."

He started the application process for the Guinness World Record in 2020. The Guinness website says the cinema earned its record on Nov. 27, 2021.

The space is mostly used for film screenings, but Cooney says they've also hosted micro-weddings and even family reunions, with old family films being shown on the big screen.

The biggest surprise for Cooney was the interest from families for children's birthday parties. He said parents have said it's nice to go somewhere where it's OK if the children are restless and if they talk, no one is going to shush them.

"Small is good. Small is manageable," he said. "The possibilities are — honestly — endless, as long as it's small."

LISTEN | Stratford cinema earns world record.