Rainbow Cinemas closes for good in Saskatoon, employees ‘dismantling a home’

Rainbow Cinemas closes for good in Saskatoon, employees ‘dismantling a home’
WATCH: The end of an era for Rainbow Cinemas in Saskatoon.

As she wipes down the concession counter at Saskatoon’s Rainbow Cinemas, Val Randall recalls an old Woody Guthrie song.

“So long, it’s been good to know you,” she sings with cloth in hand.

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The 25-year employee at the second-run theatre is helping gradually close up shop. On Monday, Rainbow told Saskatoon moviegoers the theatre was closing for good.

“We’re dismantling a home. We’re dismantling an institution,” Randall said in an interview.

With the arrival of a new Cineplex theatre next door, staff expected Rainbow Cinemas to remain open until sometime in May. With the emergence of the novel coronavirus, however, a ban on large public gatherings ensued and the theatre closed.

The temporary closure is now permanent.

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Randall has been reflecting on the theatre’s run and her involvement. She was hired in the days leading up to its opening in 1995.

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“I’d just moved into town. I was still kind of on welfare and looking for a job,” she told Global News.

Hired at 40 years old, she began working in the concession area before making her way through the ranks and becoming general manager. The vast majority of her employees and coworkers have been teenagers.

Randall considers them more like family.

“That’s the great joy of working in a movie theatre. You get to help people have fun and you hurt no one,” she said.

“You make great friends and it’s a great growing experience.”

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One day, while behind the concession counter, she met a customer named Gene. They fell in love and got married. Gene was later diagnosed with cancer, and Randall compared the feelings she felt during her husband’s death to her emotions seeing Rainbow Cinemas close.

“We knew he wasn’t going to live,” Randall said. “It’s sort of like losing him all over again.”

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On social media, patrons shared memories of the theatre, including the Saskatoon-centric mural that lines the walls. Others are adamant Rainbow Cinemas had the perfect popcorn recipe. The $5 admission was hard to argue with — even more so on toonie Tuesday.

Jill Staniec remembered going to the theatre in the late 1990s and early 2000s while living in residence at the University of Saskatchewan.

She saw the same Star Wars movie at least nine times with a group of friends from campus.

“Rainbow Cinemas was just that place where you could go to relax. It was affordable,” Staniec said.

Asked what she’d like her customers to know after 25 years, Randall replied: “You’ve made my life just great. You’ve made my life worth living.”