Smaller cinemas in Saskatoon attracting audience despite competition

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WATCH: Saskatoon will be short one more theatre when the Rainbow Cinemas location closes later this year – Mar 4, 2020

It’s been 90 years since the Magic Lantern Roxy Theatre opened its doors in Saskatoon, and while the exterior hasn’t seen much change, the interior is getting an upgrade.

“We acquired several hundred new seats. They’ve got higher backs, they recline a little bit, and the cupholders come up,” said Jordan Delorme, the general manager of the theatre.

READ MORE: Air guitar enthusiasts rock out at Roxy Theatre

The improvements come as the Roxy competes with major national cinemas to attract moviegoers to the seats.

That includes a Cineplex Odeon downtown, another Cineplex at the Centre Mall, and the Landmark Cinemas in the Brighton neighbourhood.

The Magic Lantern’s only other theatre in Saskatoon, Rainbow Cinemas, is scheduled to close in May, while Rainbow Cinema Regina in the Golden Mile remains open.

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The competition with other theatres isn’t the only challenge for a smaller cinema. Delorme said due to their close proximity to the downtown Cineplex, only one theatre is able to show a specific film at a time.

“There are a lot of films that we fight to get and we promote quite hard, and we think we’re on the verge of making a booking,” he said.

“But then the film will open really strong in Toronto and New York, and the distributor says, ‘We’re going to put it in the Cineplex because we’re doing a wider release than expected.'”

READ MORE: Saskatoon Korean Association ‘amazed’ with ‘Parasite’ Oscar wins

Once the Roxy acquires a film, the movie still has to receive a rating from the Saskatchewan Film Classification Board before it can be played for an audience, or the theatre risks a $2,000 fine.

Despite the challenges, Delorme said his theatre has taken a creative approach to films, from black and white versions of Oscar-winning shows like Parasite to sing-along versions of Grease and Hairspray.

He said this focus on creating moments in the theatre has led to a rise in attendance over the past few years.

“Customers are going to the movie theatre, I think, a bit less now for the content than they are for the movie experience, and that’s what we’re trying to cultivate,” Delorme said.


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