WALLACE: Of Paramount importance to Kamloops

A twist has emerged in the plot line of Paramount Theatre and the community now has a say in how its story will end.

When word got out earlier this month that Landmark Cinemas would cease operation of the downtown theatre, at Victoria and Fifth, public reaction was swift.

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Film buffs, downtown dwellers, armchair historians and arts advocates shared online thoughts rated PG to R.

Nostalgia poured into the virtual abyss, while opinions shared were of disappointment and anger over losing the venerable home to Kamloops Film Society’s weekly film series and annual film festival.

However, the community has since learned the theatre will stay open, at least for now.

Local property-management firm Kelson Group purchased the building and will generously lease it below market rates to KFS.

The film society will have the option of renewing its lease in five years or purchasing the building at cost. Kelson Group vice-president of operations Jason Fawcett told this newspaper the building will continue to operate as a theatre, as long as it has community support.

“We’re going to do everything that we can to keep it functioning,” added Kelson Group president Ron Fawcett during a press conference last week.

The non-profit has an uphill climb.

Landmark pulled out of this market and sold the building due to competition with Cineplex Odeon and industry changes at a time when endless streaming services keep people at home.

That prime downtown real estate could easily become Kelson’s next housing project — the firm called that “plan D” — and the city is effectively faced with a one-time opportunity to create and support a viable theatre, something that could honour the past and pave way for a new era of arts and culture in Kamloops.

(The Fawcetts are also behind a proposal for a performing-arts centre a block from the Paramount.)

Anyone who has gone to the Paramount in recent years knows KFS is the heart and soul of that space. Volunteers have filled seats by challenging audiences beyond superhero movies and the latest Netflix binge project.

I will never forget how utterly disturbed I was while watching The Skin I Live In at a recent festival.

The experience brought me back to the theatre to find out what KFS could possibly show next.

The next step will be for Kamloops Film Society to build on its success.

Some thoughts include: retro films, black-and-white movies, Rocky Horror Picture Show and other cult flicks, old Christmas movies during the holidays and documentaries that align with news of the day or historical events.

The theatre boasts character that could not be replicated if it were to be torn down and rebuilt shiny and new.

Embrace that and add to its vibrancy. Plaster the walls in old movie posters, local events advertisements and create a space that feels unique to Kamloops so the city will in turn feel a further connection and choose to support it.

Hoist a neon marquee that shines down the street, boldly showing pride for the city’s indie theatre, The Paramount, which could rival similar venues in places like Portland.

Apply for a liquor licence and serve food, beer and wine, in addition to tasty buttered popcorn and kettle corn. Team up with local breweries, wineries or fast-casual restaurants to complement plans for film, theatre, comedy and music events.

KFS executive director Dusan Magdolen said the society is anxious to hear ideas from the community.

However, he added, “I also see it as a personal challenge to entice the community back to this heritage building.”

Once KFS does the work, it will ultimately be up to Kamloopsians to put bums in the seats.

Will Paramount get a happy ending?


© Kamloops This Week


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