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Is there private sector interest in building a downtown theatre?

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Council meets on April 19, 2016 // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

Council meets on April 19, 2016 // Chris Vandenbreekel – Harvard Broadcasting











Council seems to want a downtown multiplex theatre built, but do theatre operators share their enthusiasm?

A motion was passed Tuesday night to move forward with public engagement to gauge resident interest in the project, with results due back to council by June 7. During delegations at the meeting, council heard from local businessman Bob Barrett that several private theatre operators are eagerly awaiting council’s decisions on the matter.

“They would’ve liked to have been here already,” Barrett told Mix News after the meeting. “They’re looking for a way to get into the community as soon as possible given that they feel they’re already behind the 8-ball.”

Barrett was part of the Land, Planning & Development Advisory Committee that came up with recommendations for alternate uses of the failed arena site. During that seven-month process, he discussed the possibility of a downtown theatre with multiple proponents and gauged how successful similar developments had been in other cities like Saskatoon.

So how interested are theatre companies?

“We’d be interested in developing in Fort McMurray,” said Robert Evans, the director of development for Magic Lantern Theatres and Rainbow Cinemas. “Who wouldn’t be?”

Evans expressed some reservations when it came to Landmark Cinema’s established presence in the downtown, saying Magic Lantern would have to examine the “economic drivers” before making a final decision on whether to enter the market.

Cineplex, Canada’s largest theatre operator, was less direct.

“We are always looking for new communities to join,” said Cineplex Director of Communications Sarah Van Lange. “But we have no development plans in Fort McMurray at this time.”

Landmark’s COO Neil MacDonald declined to give full comment until he gathered more information, but did indicate that he was aware of council’s discussions about a possible downtown theatre.

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