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Cinema V gets new lease on life: Cinema V reopens its fly

Cinema V reopens its fly

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.

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  • by Heath Abram - March 3, 2005, 1:30 pm

    I love it when old buildings are restored and become functional again. This particular building in NDG is beautiful and I’m sure after receiving some tender loving care it will bring a new vibrancy to the area. Montreal can never have too many venues that will promote art and culture. My appreciation goes out to the ”secret donor” who is helping to get this project underway.

  • by Daryl Campbell - March 4, 2005, 1:41 pm

    This thing is taking forever to get done. Every once in a while I hear about Cinema V being restored but by this point I’m beyond caring. I remember it from it’s heyday so to me it was a crime that it even closed to begin with.

  • by Mark St Pierre - March 5, 2005, 1:36 am

    Well, this has certainly been a long time coming. Have to admit that I’ve long had my doubts and will, regardless, reserve judgement until I can wander through the edifice myself. Still seems kind of piece-meal, though, as they’re only opening up a corner – what the hell does that mean, anyway? At this point, though, anything’s an improvement upon a building that has for far too long been languishing empty and forlorn.

  • by John Goodwin - March 6, 2005, 3:59 am

    As an ex-NDGer and a longtime fan of all the efforts to save the V, I’m hopeful that this latest little push will ensure the future of the hallowed and beloved Cinema V so that future generations will have the opportunity to experience, well, anything inside of its walls.
    We are a city that is well known for its commitment to the arts. And how fucking wonderful is that? How many cities can really lay claim to something like that? We’re small, and yet you can’t swing a cat in this town without hitting an indie artist, a theatre, a movie theatre, a musical performance, a gallery, or a play rehearsal. And, if you can, we must be talking about a really small cat. It’s gratifying, as someone trying to carve out a modest life by doing the whole arts thing, that there are still people who care about this stuff, and people who care about institutions, like the V, that have had a history of contributing to what I’ve told people the world over is the greatest arts city/scene on the planet.
    Furthermore, I’d like to salute whoever put up the dough to do a little bit o’ restoration there. You, whoever you are, should be commended for supporting such an important landmark, both in the larger sense, i.e. a Montreal landmark, and in the smaller sense, i.e. an NDG institution.
    When the forces of evil move in even further, I hope there are people who are going to be willing and able to save such other places as Oxford, Chalet BBQ, and Cosmo’s. But then again, given the fondness for good food in what my friends and I used to call the “niddig” I’m sure we don’t need to worry.
    Long live the V.

  • by Carmela Sicurella - March 6, 2005, 8:31 am

    This was a great and uplifting story to read and it all thank to the Hour. It’s great to read that Concordia students came together and rebuilt the old theatre where so many people had so many memories. Cinema V will again reopen its doors to the general public once again for them to enjoy. I have to see the final touched that has been put on Cinema V and I think it will be beautiful to see.

  • by Stephen Talko - March 6, 2005, 9:39 am

    The Cinema V location has very good transit service on Sherbrooke Street connecting you directly to the Metro. Farther along the bus route you have the Loyola Campus of Concordia University which may be interested in using the new facilities. But the big problem here in NDG has always been parking especially on the narrow residential streets where local residents would resent the increased traffic and competition for parking spaces.
    It could eventually become as trendy as Monkland Avenue. The many businesses nearby along Sherbrooke Street would see their sales increase a lot and it would attact more upscale retail tenants to the area.
    Even though I live 10 miles from NDG I bought a mountain bike a few years back on Sherbrooke Street. The area will become a Mecca for many Montrealers.

  • by Mitch Davis - March 6, 2005, 2:18 pm

    As someone who virtually lived my childhood at that cinema in its repertory glory days, I’m happy beyond words to hear that something is finally comng out of the endless restoration projects that have showered it since its closing. I agree with the above poster, that cinema never should have closed in the first place. If you recall, Famous Players bought the place out, did some grotesque redecorating (destroying breathtaking vintage architectural detail in favour of the height of 80′s tackiness) and immediately killed its rep mandate, turning it into a standard First Run cinema with virtually automated programming. I’ll never forget how depressing it was to see INDIANNA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE open in the downstairs room. Leave it to a mega chain to buy into something eclectic and individualistic in order to make it identical to every other operation in town. And Famous Players were actually surprised that their “new Cinema V” tanked? There was so much love for this place that several hundred of us marched in protest to the doors of Famous Players and even held a candlelight vigil. This truly was cultural vandalism. Adding insult to injury, the closing happened only a year or two (I think?) after the Seville had shut down.
    It’s great to know that a documentary is being shot to celebrate the history of this truly special place. Several of the projectionists at Cinema Du Parc worked at Cinema V throughout its rep period and have a fistful of incredible stories about that era. If the doco students haven’t yet spoken to any of them, they should definitely consider it. Anyway, great article!

  • by Thomas Bauer - March 7, 2005, 2:52 am

    Some of my favorite movie-going experiences happened at Cinema V.
    I wonder how many lives that building has added to?
    The idea of chamber music sounds great to me.
    I would love, LOVE, to see movies there again, especially OLD movies on a nice and large new screen. These newly restored films are begging to be seen large in a setting as nice as the AMC. If only the AMC would show some of these great old flicks….
    So many things could happen there. I’ve known people who’ve tried to make things happen. They told me about the difficulties of getting things going. It’s been a long and complicated journey.
    The fact is many people want to see something cultural associated with the place. It’s a beautiful building and should be used for something life-enhancing in some kind of artistic sense. NDG does not have anything to compare to it, really, when you think about. It would energize that part of town in a brand new way if it opened up something cool like that.
    It’ll happen.

  • by Joyce Stemkowsky - March 7, 2005, 8:58 am

    I used to go to Cinema V when it was a repetoire cinema and always loved going there. It was relaxed and inexpensive and not far to go if you lived in NDG. I have been waiting for it to reopen all this time, tracking it’s progress, living it’s pitfalls, so now, I can’t tell you how happy I am that it will reopen and my kids, now grown, can go to neighbourhood movies. The building is beautiful, the location is prime, I really don’t know what took investors so long to figure it out. If Dollar Cinema can do it, so can Cinema V.

  • by Heather Lee - March 7, 2005, 11:06 am

    It’s a fantastic idea to re-invent the old Empress Theatre. Montreal has fallen victim to budgetary cuts, over the last couple of decades, that have crippled our cultural scene to the point that our children are undereducated on the cultural plain. Too many computers and not enough creative expression. You can’t improve your own creativity without being exposed to the creativity of others. It’s also good to resurrect our historical past by re-inventing this venerable landmark. The theatrical era of this country and this city is another chapter in Canada’s history that has gone relatively ignored in the standard history textbooks in our post-secondary institutions. It’s alos a good idea to provide economical business space to be rented out on a sliding-scale basis. This way more arts and culture organizations can grow within the confines of their budget. The economic spin-off from this move is infinite. This business person should take a bow…perhaps in front of the fly. Bravo!

  • by Rita Reale - March 7, 2005, 11:45 am

    I used to love going and watch movies at Cinema V with my boyfriend (now husband). We’ve
    watched so many of them and were both saddened when they shut down. One of my favorites,
    was A Streetcar Named Desire. I’m so happy that its finally being opened again, can’t wait to visit
    it again. Now don’t forget to go on their site, http://www.cinemav.qc.ca to give your support, I know I
    will. See you at the movies…

  • by Sylvain Provost - March 10, 2005, 11:13 am

    A not-so-long time ago, in an era before the rise of the generic Googolplexes located in shopping malls and the advent of the DVDs, you had repertory cinemas all around town :the Cinéma Outremont, the Seville on Ste-Cath., and Cinema V in NDG. This was in the late 80′s. I remember going to Cinema V to watch in the same week ‘Apocalyse Now’ on the big screen and ‘The Cure : Live in Orange’. This was the kind of eclectic programming they used to have.
    Then the majors decided that it was time to rake it all in by buying these cinemas and shutting them all up. Goodbye, cultural diversity ! Welcome, profit-driven uniformity !
    It is when a neighbourhood starts losing its cultural or sports landmarks that its downfall becomes predictable.
    Hearing that they want to reopen the Cinema V and bring back some of its lustre from yesteryears seems like good news to me. This is better than hearing news that companies or cultural institutions are shutting down.

  • by Pedro Eggers - March 28, 2005, 5:32 pm

    Maybe this does qualify as a story but I doubt the public interest in it is as big as some would hope. I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve hear whispers that this thing was going to get started and started right. I live in the area and I don’t even care anymore. At least it never got tore down, now that would have been a crime, but that it took this long to get the ball rolling to restoring it is just as bad.

  • by BERTRAND SAMSON - April 7, 2006, 9:24 pm

    As part of the restorations .One would think that the balcony would be reintegrated to the main theatre. It yould improve both acoustics and decor. Perhaps one day you could hang a chandelier from the ceiling. I also recommend it be “bi functional” Cinema and theatre.
    Congratulations annyway!
    All through out North America Old theatres are restored to their original state.
    Please see the Genesee theatre Chicago.

  • by Joan Thornley - June 30, 2007, 3:49 pm

    I lived in Montreal from 1963 to 1998. My husband and I were regulars at Cinema V. There was a wonderful small restaurant in the same block, just a bit east of Cinema V. They served an amazing duck and pear pie. Is it still there and, if so, what is the name of it? I can’t imagine that it has survived.

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