Thursday, April 13, 2017

The history of Movie Theatres in Kitchissippi

In this week's new issue of the Kitchissippi Times, my column covers a topic that was hard to keep to roughly 1,000 words: the history of movie theatres in Kitchissippi! This is possibly my favourite topic of local history, and also the most frustrating. It saddens me that we no longer have a movie house in the area. Local single/double screen theatres were such a significant part of every neighbourhood throughout the 20th century, but are extremely rare now. It takes a special kind of investor, the availability of a large building and low rent to make it happen. Seems like all three are an impossibility these days.

I recommend a trip to the O'Brien Theatre in Arnprior ( for that old-time movie experience. My biggest dream has always been to re-open a theatre in the Westboro-Wellington area. I truly think it has great potential to do well in our area. Though the movie industry has struggled due to new forms of media distribution, piracy, affordable high-end technology for your home, etc., the experience of going out to a movie will always live on. Theatre chains have had to glitz it up in recent years with plush reclining chairs, 3D glasses, arcade games, dozens of new food options, and intriguingly, the sale of alcohol all adding to the movie-going adventure.

If only commercial real estate and land values weren't so exorbitant, I feel a local cinema in Kitchissippi could be a huge success. I've had an eye for years on the old Elmdale Theatre building (now a Church) on the off-chance it might be put up for sale, but that lot is worth millions now, a likely spot for a condo development sometime in the next 10-20 years I'm sure.

So in all likelihood, all we'll have going forward are the memories of these great old theatres. The experience of seeing a movie now left to driving to a suburban megaplex; fun and traditional entertainment for kids, teens and young adults now only achievable by leaving Kitchissippi and driving a fair distance. It's a shame really. Though I was only old enough to catch the tail-end of theatres in the area (the Elmdale closed just as I was starting high school), I have great childhood memories of seeing movies there, at Westgate, at the Somerset (which closed in 2000), and as an adult I've seeked out vintage theatres when I travel to cities and towns in the States. Like I mentioned above, the O'Brien in Arnprior is a great place to visit; the restoration of the 100-year-old theatre the labour of love for Kevin, a passionate movie-loving guy fulfilling his dream. I hold out hope that I'll be able to do the same someday!

For the nostalgic look back at the many theatres of Kitchissippi, please view the column here:

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

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