This week, I am devoting considerable time and space to some of the changes to movie going in Saskatoon.
The big news out of Saskatoon is about some of the openings and closings that have been announced there.
First of all, a new cinema complex has opened. As of June 1, Landmark Cinemas is now open in Brighton Marketplace in Saskatoon, which is a welcome addition to the cinema scene there.
Wednesday night, I went to see Deadpool 2 at the new cinema. I should point out my real motivation was to see what this new theatre complex was about. It was not out of any real desire to see Deadpool 2. What a crazy movie that was, folks, but it was interesting.
What you have at the new Landmark is a clean, comfortable theatre complex with big screens and generous leg room. In the theatre that showed Deadpool 2 there was stadium seating, complete with comfy leather reclining chairs that are in more and more cinemas these days.
It’s a welcome change from the old days when the theatres used to pack patrons into the seats like sardines. My guess is cinemas and other forms of entertainment are struggling to find new ways to convince people to leave their easy chairs at home. Sports teams are facing the same issue, with people preferring to stay at home in front of high-definition TVs.
So these theatres figure the best way to gain more patrons is to offer that same standard of comfort. Hence, the reclining chairs. Unfortunately, people might then decide the experience of going to the movies is no better than being at home. So they stay at home. So either way, you can’t win.
The bottom line is, Landmark is trying to get you out of your homes by offering a thoroughly modern experience, with reclining chairs, a big screen (there are seven) and 3D capacity. Inside, expect to see a lot of “black.” The theatre I was in had black walls with grey trim, and there is plenty of black and grey to be seen inside the lobby and halls as well.
Landmark itself is the second-biggest cinema chain in Canada, but this is their first cinema acquisition in Saskatoon. They also own the Tower Theatre in Yorkton.
The talk in Saskatoon has been about how this is the start of a big cinema battle in town between Landmark and Cineplex, proprietors of the much-hated Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Saskatoon.
I say “much-hated” because so many commentators, in Saskatoon and elsewhere, have ranted about what a huge hassle it is to go to Scotiabank Theatre for a movie.
First, you must pay through the nose for parking. Then, when you finally get inside to pay for your ticket, they don’t even have human beings at the ticket counters. Instead, you have to swipe your card through an automated teller. And prices are through the roof, for tickets and food and drinks, and it’s even worse if the movie is in 3D.
Once you find your seat, you then must endure several minutes of annoying pre-show, followed by several more minutes of even more annoying commercials that you could have watched for free at home.
There are a host of other issues. In general, Saskatoon people are desperate for a modern alternative to Scotiabank Theatre and especially desperate for an alternative outside of downtown.
On that note, the Landmark is going to please a lot of people. For one thing, you don’t have to pay for the parking, and their pre-show is far less annoying with far fewer commercials.
The location should especially please those on the east side. To get there, you take College Drive heading east towards Highway 5. The cinema itself is on the right-hand side. This is the same route that used to take Saskatoon movie fans to the Sundown Drive-in a few miles down the highway. Just going down that road again brought back a lot of movie memories for me personally.
The obvious question now is: how does Cineplex answer back to this new Landmark Cinemas competition in Saskatoon?
We got the answer when Cineplex released an announcement about their new cinema at the Centre Mall, to open in 2019. The timing of their news release was especially interesting, coming as it did the same week that Landmark opened.
It sounds like this new Cineplex will be much the same as the new Landmark:
“Scheduled to open in mid-2019, the new theatre will offer a variety of movie-going experiences for guests of all ages, including UltraAVX and recliner seats in six of its seven auditoriums. The state-of-the-art theatre will also feature an auditorium designed specifically for families with young children with a colourful interior, playful seating and a curated lineup of films selected just for them.”
I’m hopeful this particular Cineplex will be a better experience than that other place that’s named after a bank. You don’t have to pay for parking at Centre Mall, so that’s already an improvement. Hopefully, they’ll cut down on the commercials, too. Maybe somebody at head office will get the message one of these days.
I went down to Centre Mall to take a look at the construction site. A portion of the parking lot is blocked off, so work has started.
The other major news connected to all of this is that once the new Cineplex is complete, it will spell the sad end of the two “dueling cinemas” inside the mall.
The current Cineplex Centre Cinemas will close in 2019 when the new Cineplex opens. As well, the mall is not renewing the lease for Rainbow Cinemas, part of the Rainbow-Magic Lantern empire.
This truly is a shame, because the Rainbow was a good venue to catch second-run movies if you happened to miss the first run. Also, the prices are unbelievably cheap. For example, on Tuesday nights you can get in for two bucks.
While it will be sad to see them go, the reality is both cinemas are past their prime and customers are demanding a better experience. The seating is too narrow, the screens are not that big, etcetera. Of course, that was part of its charm, too.
As for Magic Lantern-Rainbow, it sounds like they are concentrating on other things. They have the Roxy Theatre on 20th Street, and other projects on the go, such as the new cinema now under construction in North Battleford.
They celebrated the first anniversary of the re-opening of the Capitol in North Battleford with an open house last weekend with free popcorn, free movie trailers and some poster sales and silent auctions.
You might be surprised to know the cinemas at Brighton Marketplace originally were going to be Magic Lantern cinemas. It was a Magic Lantern project, but then Landmark came along and made the deal to buy it in January.
It is interesting to imagine what these Landmark Cinemas would have looked like had Magic Lantern held onto them. I am sure it would have looked far different inside with a multi-coloured paint job, not the grey and black in there now.
Rainbow Cinemas plan to be in business in Centre Mall for another two years. In the meantime you’ll want to take advantage of reduced ticket prices they have been offering (regular prices now down to $4).
When it closes in May 2020, they will have been in business in that location for more than two decades. All things considered, that’s a good run.
The one constant about Saskatoon movie going is change; the place is notorious for cinemas coming and going. I remember when Saskatoon used to have the Capitol, the Paramount, the Odeon, Midtown Cinemas, the Cinema Twins and all the drive-ins. Later on, the city added the Capitol 4 and the Pacific, which are also gone.
While it is exciting to see Landmark’s arrival and a new Cineplex construction in Saskatoon, it’s going to be tough for the movie fans to once again bid farewell to familiar movie venues in the city. Times are definitely changing.