Saskatchewan

Final curtain call approaches for beloved local Regina cinema

The corn will soon stop popping at Rainbow Cinemas in Regina, a retro theatre that has served films to the masses since 1998. 

Rainbow Cinemas owner says attendance is down; last film to screen Sept. 25

Rainbow Cinemas in Regina will screen its last film on Sept. 25. (CBC News)

The corn will soon stop popping at Rainbow Cinemas in Regina, a retro theatre that has served discount films to the masses since 1998.

Magic Lantern Theatres, which owns Rainbow, told the CBC in an email that the theatre's lease in the Golden Mile Shopping Centre has expired. Rainbow is set to screen its last film on Sept. 25.

"While at one time Rainbow Cinemas was a very popular location for cheap entertainment — you could see a movie cheaper than rent a movie at Blockbuster — like Blockbuster, its appeal had faded. COVID, of course, accelerated this decline," said Magic Lantern Theatres president Tom Hutchinson in the email.

"Because of this, I suspect its loss means little for cinema in Regina."

Regina resident Jay Sotkowy said he feels the loss deeply. He describes himself as a local filmgoer, film lover and filmmaker who visits Rainbow at least four times a month. 

"Rainbow Cinemas here is a great hub for film lovers who can go and see these smaller films that don't play at the bigger theatres. You know, your Cineplexes, your Landmarks. They skip over those. But Rainbow would pick them up and play them at a great price," Sotkowy said. 

Rainbow Cinemas boasted the cheapest prices in town. 

"The absolute shining star of the Rainbow Cinema was Studio 7, which would house more of the smaller art house festival circuit films which are absolutely bar none the best films of the year," Sotkowy said. 

Rainbow has also been known to hold small screenings of local films, and even special events for Halloween and Christmas. 

Magic Lantern Theatres, which owns Rainbow Cinemas, said its lease in the Golden Mile Shopping Centre has expired. (CBC News)

Sotkowy said the Regina film community will have difficulty recovering from the loss. 

"This is just another stab, another gunshot wound in the cinematic landscape of Saskatchewan. You know, it's just telling me, 'Get up, move. Go somewhere else. This place is not for you, it's not for cinema lovers.' And that's very disheartening because this place could be so fantastic for film."

This is just another stab, another gunshot wound in the cinematic landscape of Saskatchewan.- Jay Sotkowy, Regina. 

Sotkowy agreed with Magic Lantern that the community was not flocking to Rainbow, but said it could have done a better job advertising and had a much better social media presence. 

The movie-going experience

Sotkowy has a soft place in his heart for Rainbow's concession popcorn, consistent matinees and "retro" coming attractions advertisements. 

"They did such a fantastic job. All the movies started on time. The concessions were always fantastic. The popcorn … beautiful. I'm going to extremely miss that popcorn."

At the end of the day, Sotkowy said Rainbow was simply a unique movie-going experience in the city.

"It has its own heartbeat," Sotkowy said. 

"With all the bells and whistles that come with the bigger Cineplexes and Landmarks, sometimes it's just nice to sit in an older cinema with hard candy stuck to the floors. The sounds bleeds through the wall sometimes, but you don't mind because it was like four bucks to go and you're still watching a pretty sick movie."

Sotkowy said Rainbow's closure will disrupt what he chooses to do with his time and interests. 

"It's just going to leave a big empty spot in my day and my film education and everything like that. I'm going to be so far behind now."

He said lovers of art house, local and documentary films will now rely more heavily on the Regina Public Library Theatre at the city's central location. 

Regina Public Library Film Theatre

The RPL film theatre is free to moviegoers, and features art house and independent cinema, among other things.

"Something that we're really proud of is that we work a lot with our locals, either local Regina filmmakers or regional film makers," said Amber Christensen, executive director for the RPL central library.

"We are so focused on trying to work to bring and showcase things that you're not going to necessarily see other places."

The Regina central library screens local and independent films for free. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

However, Christensen said RPL will likely not play the films that Rainbow's Studio 7 was known for, because that is not the business model and RPL does not work with big distributors like Lionsgate. She said Studio 7 will be missed. 

"It will be a loss to the city. They worked in a very specific first-run commercial art house distribution model."

Christensen said she believes people are still nervous about going to theatres due to COVID-19, and that's why attendance is generally down at theatres. She also pointed to streaming.

"You know that song Video Killed the Radio Star? Streaming kind of killed the film theatre. It is killing the film theatre experience to some extent."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a journalist for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

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