The Park Theatre, Vancouver, 1986

Cinema

Park Theatre, Cambie Street, Vancouver, 1986

The Park Theatre, at 3440 Cambie Street, Vancouver, opened its doors in the summer of 1941. Originally owned by Odeon, the movie house changed hands a number of times.

Between 1983 and ’84, I lived 5 blocks west of Cambie, on 17th Avenue, in a rented house shared with 4 others. During that time, the cinema’s management morphed into Cineplex Odeon Corporation.

In 1990, after Cineplex Odeon chose not to renew its lease, the Park joined several cinemas — including the Ridge, East Van and Varsity Theatres — under the proprietorship of Leonard Schein, founder of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

My roommates and I were regular customers at those repertory cinemas showing independent, art and foreign films, where I saw works like Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and Dersu Uzala, Denys Arcand’s The Decline of the American Empire, A Chinese Ghost Story, the quirky Taoist comedy directed by Ching Siu-tung, and David Lynch’s debut surrealist feature film, Eraserhead.

Schein ran the Park until 2000, when he retired and sold the cinema to Alliance and Famous Players. When that company abandoned the beloved theatre in 2005, Schein came to the rescue with $300,000 in renovations, despite the well-publicized disruptions along Cambie Street, caused by construction of the Canada Line rapid transit project.

After 35 years in the business, Schein sold the Park to Cineplex Entertainment in March 2013.

Later in 1984, I moved to an apartment on W. 10th Avenue, across from the Varsity, staying until I packed up in the fall of 1986 for a move to Toronto. A return to the South Cambie neighbourhood during that summer of Expo ’86 resulted in the photo posted here.

The film advertised on the marquee, About Last Night, was the blockbuster romantic-comedy-drama, starring up-and-comers Rob Lowe and Demi Moore.

The image, originally shot on medium-format Ilford film, recently scanned and printed digitally to archival standards, is now part of the collection I call Eighties Vancouver.

Prints are available in limited and open editions.

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