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Mike Jamshedian stretches out in the Raj Cinema in east Vancouver. Mr. Jamshedian and his wife Naz plan on re-opening the theatre are have enough of being examples of the the belief that single-screen cinemas can’t survive in the Vancouver region.

Jeff Vinnick/Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

Naz and Mike Jamshedian have long been held as examples of the belief that single-screen cinemas can't survive in the Vancouver region.

After all, they had announced the end of their Denman Cinemas in the West End, a victim of their landlord's decision not to renew their short-term lease after a year and 10 months.

That decision was exacerbated among cinephiles with the closure of such cinemas as the Hollywood and the looming demise of the Ridge.

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Ms. Jamshedian, who speaks for the couple, says the Denman closing was a big blow after about 20 years associated with showing movies. Her husband managed the Hollywood, Lougheed and Dolphin cinemas.

"It was our first baby – the first theatre we owned," she said of the Denman in an interview on Wednesday.

The Jamshedians are now moving to the Raja Theatre on Kingsway, formerly billed for showing "the best in Indian entertainment." They plan to rename the 73-year-old movie house.

They plan to open Nov. 13 under a new name being chosen in a contest where entries are being submitted through Facebook. The debut feature will be Jab Tak Hai Jaan , a dramatic romance opening in India on the same day.

The couple approached the owner of the Raja, which has been closed for about a year and a half, and struck a deal. Ms. Jamshedian says the rent will be slightly higher than expected, but she declined to be more specific.

The Denman had 425 seats. The Raja has 375 seats.

"We are very optimistic," Ms. Jamshedian said. They have signed a five-year lease with a five-year option for renewal. "Hopefully we will be there for 10 years."

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They're hoping to buck the apparent trend that single-screen cinemas are in trouble in a multiplex age.

"When it's one screen, you can only show one movie at a particular given time," she said. "Obviously, there's less revenue, there's less to choose from for customers, so if you don't like the movie, you're not going to come."

One solution for the Denman was showing five different movies in a day, starting at noon. The couple plans to bring some other Denman traditions to their new operation, including a varied mix of programmed films, including Canadian material, documentaries, foreign films and retro film festivals that featured screenings of such classics as The Godfather , Back to the Future and Ghostbusters.

They will also bring along discounted pricing. The general admission for adults at the Denman was $7.95 for adults and $5.95 for seniors.

"You have to do something different to survive," Ms. Jamshedian said.

Leonard Schein, owner of Festival Cinemas, which included the ill-fated Ridge, wishes the Jamshedians well.

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But he believes location will be a problem for the couple because the Raja is a bit out of the way compared to the Denman, which was in the West End, or his own Ridge, which draws from Kitsilano, the West Side and among customers living along Broadway.

Single-screen cinemas, he said, face high municipal taxes and utility bills that are financially daunting. A multiplex can offer a more varied menu of films to appeal to customers.

Mr. Schein said he was never interested in acquiring the Raja.

"I would love for them to succeed. I thought they did a good job at the Denman."

However, he said he is sticking to his gloomy forecast about single-screen cinemas being extinct in Vancouver in a decade.

"I think it's a losing battle."

The manager and programmer of the Metro Cinema Society's 500-seat Garneau Theatre in Edmonton is a little more optimistic.

Pete Harris says things are going well for the 71-year-old single-screen cinema – the only such operation in the Alberta capital – partly because of a "unique programming" mix of first-run narrative films and documentaries, local films and rep cinema. "It's like running a year-round film festival," he said.

He acknowledges the challenges of Vancouver are being felt across Canada, but some cinemas will survive.

"They will be rare, but they will still exist."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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