A five-screen movie theatre will be opening in downtown North Battleford, it was announced Tuesday.
Bob Evans, director of development for Magic Lantern Theatres, was on the site for an announcement by the City of North Battleford, saying it could be open "within the year, probably within 10 months."
At a cost of upwards of $5 million, the 690-seat theatre will be located on the so-called King Street Station property, adjacent to the liquor store, an area City Hall has been trying to develop for decades. Magic Lantern, with corporate headquarters in Edmonton and a reputation for family-friendly facilities, has purchased the land from the City.
Evans listed the attributes of the planned theatre.
"You will have a five-screen, stadium-seating, state-of-the-art multiplex theatre. We'll bring you all the first run movies, we'll be able to hold over more movies for you, it'll have state-of-the-art sound, high back chairs, recliners and, of course, good old-fashioned pop and popcorn."
It will also feature digital projection and digital sound.
"Everything that Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary [have], you'll have it right here in North Battleford,” said Evans.
Magic Lantern Theatres currently operates nine cinema locations with 36 screens across Canada, including two cinemas under the Rainbow Cinemas banner.
Evans expects North Battleford's multiplex could employ 30 or 40 part-time people and up to seven full-time, "depending on how we run the facility, which we haven't determined yet."
He described the theatre as "perfect for this community," explaining the City of North Battleford came to Magic Lantern with the concept.
"They came to us very convincingly. They had all the demographics that we needed," said Evans. "We just needed a reason to come, and the location is the reason, a perfect location."
“The City has been working with Magic Lantern Theatres for quite some time now,” said Jennifer Niesink, director of economic development with the City of North Battleford. “And we are very excited to bring this new attraction to North Battleford – it will add great value to the city and the downtown and might attract even more businesses.”
The executive director of Downtown North Battleford, the city's business improvement district, Lisa Kissick said, "This is going to be a game-changer for downtown, so we are really excited to work with Magic Lantern and look forward to having a new entertainment space downtown."
Mayor Ian Hamilton was exuberant in his excitement.
"I hope you share my joy and elation today," he said to the group of people who had gathered at the giant "sold" sign for the announcement.
“This is great news for the residents of North Battleford and area," said the mayor. "We welcome the Magic Lantern Theatres’ investment and appreciate their corporate confidence in the local economic environment that council and city administration have envisioned and worked so hard to achieve."
He also had thanks for the City staff who helped make the purchase a reality.
"Congratulations to Jennifer Niesink’s team and our thanks for the support of City Manager Jim Puffalt to bring this development to fruition.”
Hamilton also said Evans has had conversations with the owner of the Capitol Theatre, also located in downtown North Battlerford.
"It's something that we strongly encourage, because we recognize the competitive nature of this," said the mayor.
As for the fact that the public, until recently, has been using the property now purchased by Magic Lantern as parking space, Hamilton isn't worried.
Pointing to the paved parking lot north of the liquor store, he said, "We have 47 parking spots right here, paved. Across the way," he added, pointing to the parking area in front of the RCMP detachment building, "that's public parking."
He said the lot beside the Travelodge is being developed for the RCMP, "to make sure they have good support."
"There are well over 100 right here," he said, adding there are about 250 spots within about a block that people actually recognize.
While the Lantern Theatre property stretches most of the way along Railway Avenue (100th Street), the plot bordered by 11th Avenue and 101st Street, currently used for parking, may also be developed.
"We hope that's going to be sold," said the mayor. "We're pretty confident it's going to be sold now."
Hamilton says this is going to be a big year for North Battleford, with more development on the horizon.
"We want to make sure that people understand and are aware that we did sell the corner parcel of land in the southeast quadrant, kitty corner from Payless Shoes. It's just been recently graded. We don't know exactly what the development will be, but Terracap [which owns Frontier Centre] purchased it so we are pretty confident that's something that will happen there pretty quickly."
He's happy with the corporate confidence being shown in North Battleford recently.
"When you see Dairy Queen re-investing and you see Kal Tire constructing a new site, and a hotel going in the ground in August, this is very encouraging. This is going to be one of our best years," he said.