Kitsilano holds out hope Hollywood Theatre will be saved

Residents of Kitsilano hope there’s another act for the iconic Hollywood Theatre.

“I have done many petitions in my life, and I have never, ever seen people so eager,” said Mel Lehan, spokesman for Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition.

The owner of the West Broadway theatre, Dino Bonnis of Bonnis Properties, wants to convert the 78-year-old theatre into a two-story fitness centre. It’s led to a push by local residents to try and save the theatre. An online petition has thousands of signatures.

Today at St. James Hall, they discussed ideas that would save the building as a multipurpose heritage space.

“You can’t make it a single movie theatre anymore, that’s obvious,” says Lehan. The theatre had declining attendance for years before the family that had owned the building for its entire history sold it to Bonnis in 2011. It has been leased to a church in the interim.

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“But we could put together a whole raft of multi-purpose events that would fill the community with happiness, and we think we could put forward a business proposition to make it work.

“We don’t have anything on the west side that has a seating capacity of 650. This will meet that need for a middle-sized community venue.”

They have some time to put together their proposal. Vancouver city council has protected the theatre from demolition until the end of January. Mindful of the recent outcry over the demolition of the Ridge Theatre, the city has also commissioned a report on preserving heritage spaces.

Lehan is hopeful a solution can be found.

“We think we can raise the money, and if for some reason the owner would rather keep the building, we’d like to lease it.

“There’s enough fitness centers in this city. Let’s keep something as iconic as this.”

There’s a will to save the Hollywood. Whether there’s a way is yet to be seen.

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