WINNIPEG — The curtains have closed for the final time at Selkirk’s Garry Theatre.
After 73 years the single screen cinema still had its old charm. The concession stand looked like it had come from the ’70s, while the box office was reminiscent of the ’50s as you walked through the doors to sit in one of the 317 seats.
“It was the place most teenagers went on dates, first place locals went for their movies. It meant a lot,” said Matthew Evans, former manager of the Garry Theatre from 2007 to 2012.
According to a media release, the doors were officially closed by the current owner Landmark Cinemas on May 17. The Garry joins three other Landmark cinemas in Yorkton, Airdrie and Dawson Creek, all set to show their last movies by the end of the month.
Single screen movie theatres, like the Garry had a rough go when it came to distribution for first-run movies, according to Evans. Major production companies often require movie theatres to hold over opening day weekend for upwards of three weeks, and single-screen theatres couldn’t afford to do it.
What kept the doors open was the community. When Evans took over the operations of the theatre, the owners gave him free rein to open up more business. He partnered with other local theatres to get first-run movies, and shared the mandatory weeks long showing across different communities like Gimli, Stonewall and Beausejour.
Movie distribution issues and limited screenings combined with the pandemic may have been the final straw for the theatre’s demise.
Evans said there were times when he would screen a movie to a single patron, a situation he said continued past his tenure.
“For the past little while there from what I understand they were having a lot of nights like that, because they went back to showing movies that were three months out,” said Evans. “And then everybody’s seen it.”
The hope for a successful reopening is there, but in a different capacity according to Evans. Something similar to the Park Theatre in Winnipeg, that can combine live entertainment with a movie theatre aspect.
“Single screen theatres unfortunately the way the movie industry went are not going to be able to survive running movies week to week,” said Evans.
There was an outpouring of support for the theatre when news of its closure got out. Social media posts described many experiences and movies. Stories of Saturday matinees with the Nutty Professor and Herbie the Love Bug, sneaking in beers, and hanging out with friends filled the comments sections. One of the more common themes was the delicious popcorn, with one poster even inquiring about buying the machine. Apparently, there were already plans for it.
For Evans, his fondest memory was his last day there. After closing the doors after a Shrek 3 viewing, he hosted a film festival for a local junior high. Another highlight was hosting a red carpet movie premier event in conjunction with a local diner.
A post on the theatre’s Facebook page said, “Movie Lovers. We’ll miss you—but we’ll still have our movie memories.”
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