If a building can crackle with energy, then there’s definitely a lot of buzz happening around the Cinema V these days. While a group of Concordia communication and journalism students puts the finishing touches on a documentary about the building’s past as the Empress Theatre, the Royal Follies and the Cinema V, the old edifice is getting a new lease on life. A large part of the long-empty NDG landmark has been undergoing renovations since Christmas (thanks to a local businessman donating labour and materials) and will be ready in the next few weeks.
The corner that’s opening, at Old Orchard and Sherbrooke, once housed a store called Sesame Health Food. "We’re opening Sesame," jokes Jodi Michaels of the Empress Cultural Centre, the group reviving the building as a local cultural and performing arts centre. "We’re moving in there as a headquarters and mini-events space so we can go public with the project."
Office space is available. And community organizations and performing arts groups (including dance, music and theatre) are invited to rent out space for events, available for a sliding scale fee depending on the group’s budget, Michaels says.
Besides Empress Cultural Centre headquarters, "Sesame" will soon become home to the Montreal Chamber Music Festival. "We’re very pleased to be moving in," says Festival spokesperson Michelle Sullivan, pointing out right now the festival works out of a converted basement in founder Dennis Brott’s house.
It’s not a done deal, but there’s a very real possibility the McGill Conservatory of Music will become a future anchor tenant. Director Dean Jobin-Bevans confirmed in early February that the conservatory signed a 180-day provisional agreement with the Empress Cultural Centre. The building’s large stages are not only appealing for children’s music, theatre and dance programs, but also "make excellent venues for ensemble rehearsals," Jobin-Bevans says.
"What’s really exciting about the stage is it has a fly," he says, which allows for the moving and changing of backdrops. "Even the Centaur theatre doesn’t have a fly."
For information see www.cinemav.qc.ca.