While Landmark Cinemas has announced it will cease operations of Paramount Theatre in downtown Kamloops, KTW has learned the building is in the process of or has been sold to Kelson Group, which is owned by local arts supporter Ron Fawcett.
Kelson Group has been redeveloping parts of downtown Kamloops and the Fawcetts are behind a proposal for a performing-arts centre on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Seymour Street, just one block south of the Paramount.
KTW reached out to Ron Fawcett, who said the sale is still in the works.
Asked about the fate of the old theatre, he would not comment, but did say an announcement on the future of the building may be made on April 18.
“We’re trying to find a solution to keep the theatre operating, but at this point, we’re not ready to make an announcement,” Jason Fawcett of the Kelson Group told KTW. “Hopefully next week will have more details for the community.”
He said the company is intending to buy the building next week, provided closing happens on time. He said Kelson Group is working with a potential operator to keep the movies running.
Landmark Cinemas CEO Bill Walker told KTW the company, which is pulling out of the Kamloops market for good on April 17, is leaving behind an “operational theatre,” complete with sound systems and projectors.
“Particularly for the [Kamloops] Film Society that is quite active, we’re hopeful and they’re hopeful that they will continue to operate their film society and film festivals through that centre until such time that it gets redeveloped,” Walker said.
He said the Kamloops Film Society will host an event on April 18, a day after Landmark’s final showings of the movies Hotel Mumbai and Five Feet Apart.
Walker said Landmark decided to sell due to a tough market. The company owns 44 theatres across the country, including 13 in B.C.
“For us, that theatre in its format in competition with Cineplex, it was difficult for us to make it overly profitable or really make any profit there,” he said.
“The developer has a long-term view of what they think they can do with the property. There was good value in the underlying real estate and there is a lot of new developments going on in downtown Kamloops, which is nice to see. And I think the Kelson Group sees an opportunity long term to do something different.”
Landmark Cinemas announced it would cease operations of Paramount Theatre on its website:
“Attention movie lovers: Landmark Cinemas will cease operations of this location, end of day on April 17, 2019. We’d like to thank you for your patronage over the years.”
A staff member at the theatre confirmed to KTW that staff were informed on April 1 and about 10 part-time employees will lose their jobs as a result.
“It kind of came out of the blue for all of us,” the staff member said. “Nobody saw it coming.”
Walker said from Landmark’s perspective, layoffs had to be done. However, he noted the “possibility” of opportunities with Kamloops Film Society, being that staff are knowledgable with the equipment and building.
“Nothing that we can guarantee,” Walker said. “So, from our perspective, we do need to lay them off and that’s just an unfortunate reality in these processes.”
Kamloops Film Society executive director Dusan Magdolen said it would be sad if the theatre closes permanently, but noted the society is holding out hope new ownership will continue operating the building as a theatre and allow the film society to continue using it.
“If we lose that venue, it’s a huge hit for us,” he said.
Magdolen said if the film series and festival do need to move, Cineplex Cinemas at Aberdeen Mall may be an option for the series. The festival, which he said is more nimble, could change to something held at various venues all across town.
Magdolen said he was aware Paramount probably wasn’t doing “gangbuster numbers” for Landmark and the society has previously discussed venues in its strategic planning.
“For this, we haven’t had those conversations because we want to see how it shakes out. But it’s definitely a concern,” he said.
The final film in the society’s spring film series is Stockholm, which will be screened on April 18.
The theatre has for decades been located downtown. Walker thanked moviegoers who have supported the theatre.
“We enjoyed our time and place in the community,” he said, citing the history of the Paramount.
“Sometimes the industry just changes and, certainly, the competitive nature unfortunately makes it what it is, as it is now. But we are happy to see it go to a group that can re-invest in it and eventually can make it into something that is an additive to the downtown core.
““These theatre projects don’t always turn out this well, so we’re hopeful that the Kelson Group can do something great.”