Just a few years ago, Squamish had at least three stores where people could rent a movie. Today there’s only one. Clearly, with the advent of big-screen, high-definition TVs, Netflix and online video downloads, the video rental business is in decline. Same goes for movie theatres — for many of the same reasons.
But there’s something about going out to a movie that’s different from watching one at home. A movie theatre is a gathering place, an activity for young and old to share, an experience that’s accessible to all, no matter how technically savvy you are. Sure, it’s more expensive than watching TV or renting. But even those of limited means can afford to “go out” to a movie once in a while.
Just before the Garibaldi 5 Cinemas opened for business in 2004, five large speakers that were to be part of the operation were stolen. But the show went on — as it has done for the past eight years. Yes, there were occasional projection or sound issues, and a few customers complained that the 120-seat theatres were chilly inside, but for the past eight years, it’s been Squamish’s only cinema — a place for locals and tourists alike to go out for a safe, sober and (usually) entertaining night on the town.
If this is the end for Garibaldi 5, though, it should not be the end of the movie theatre in Squamish. Until 1990, there was something alternately called the Star Theatre or the Starlite Theatre or the Squamish Theatre — one screen, 250 seats. In a 2008 article, former mayor Corinne Lonsdale described the experience as “very primitive but… a lot of fun. I believe that it basically got good use by every age group in the community.”
It can still be that way — if only someone can make the economics work. It doesn’t have to be a five-plex and it doesn’t have to be only a movie theatre. It could include a bowling alley, a café, retail shops or any combination. And of course, it should be downtown. It may not be “on the strip,” but hey, if it’s the only game in town, the tourists will find it (and in the process find downtown, too). The community would have a valuable gathering place — if only an individual or group can muster the capital and the will to take a chance.
— David Burke