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Keep the Empire in Downtown Kingston

Empire Movie Theatre, downtown Kingston, OntarioPhase Two of King’s Crossing began to take shape in December 2011 when it was announced that Walmart, LCBO, St. Hubert and Empire Theatre would soon emerge from this sprawling consumer complex located at Division and the 401. Both Walmart and the LCBO were suggested as new locations that would not result in the closure of their respective establishments elsewhere in the city, while St. Hubert would be a new addition to the region.  The cinema was an entirely different story. Not only did Empire Theatres plan on relocating their longstanding downtown institution, rumours quickly emerged that a clause could deter other theatres from opening up shop in the current downtown location.  While that might be a good business strategy for those looking to drive theatre goers to King’s Crossing, and perhaps even an unsolicited benefit for the Screening Room, it has left patrons and downtown business owners scratching their heads.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

Should the Empire Theatre remain downtown?

  • Yes, in the current location. (60%, 93 Votes)
  • Yes, but in a new facility on North Block. (17%, 26 Votes)
  • Don't care. I frequent the other theatres. (16%, 25 Votes)
  • No, let it move to King's Crossing. (6%, 9 Votes)
  • Something else entirely. (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 155

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Last week, the Chairman of the Downtown Business Association, Ed Smith, unveiled a reaching plan that would keep Empire’s silver screens downtown, as a part of the future North Block development.  Presented to Empire Theatres in hopes that the company will take a second look at the benefits of having their operation located downtown, on the doorstep of the K-Rock Centre no less, even Smith admits that the chances of changing course are “slim”.

Empire Theatres presumably knows their audience better than the rest of us.  They’ve likely studied the numbers and concluded that Queen’s, St. Lawrence and RMC students, who arguably make up a majority of the foot traffic downtown, don’t frequent their cinema as much as one might think.  Is that because they’re downloading movies online, more inclined to go to the more modern Cineplex Odeon at Gardiner’s Road, or their attendance is limited to cheap night?  Whatever the case may be, the move to a modern 10-screen facility (complete with IMAX), free parking and cheaper rent demonstrates that Empire is betting their local future on King’s Crossing rather than the downtown’s aging Capitol 7.  But where does that leave downtown Kingston, who could for the first time since 1920 be without a movie theatre in the core?  Could the economic spinoff of theatre goers be a thing of the past for downtown business owners?

Do you frequent the Empire Theatre downtown? Better yet, when it moves, will your patronage follow? Is the lure of Empire Theatre’s new IMAX capability enough to earn your business?

Thanks to semuthutan for today’s photo.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

11 thoughts on “Keep the Empire in Downtown Kingston

  • July 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm
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    It would be nice to keep one downtown, but I wouldn't say it "should" stay as I certainly wouldn't want to put my money on the line investing in one. I'm baffled people would vote to keep the present location, its an easy observation that it can't be making money, with no prospect too.

  • July 3, 2012 at 7:55 am
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    it's unfortunate that the theatre is moving to a location that does not have bus service for late shows.

  • July 3, 2012 at 8:31 am
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    I would love to hear from the folks who've voted to keep the theatre in its current location. Clearly Empire Theatres are looking to modernize their local presence, proven by way of their inclusion of IMAX into the new 10-screen facility at King's Crossing.This sort of presence can't be accommodated in the current location, unless they make serious concessions to a number of screens, IMAX capability etc… Therefore, downtown or otherwise, isn't the move inevitable?

  • July 3, 2012 at 9:17 am
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    I'd be happy to see it in either downtown location. I think it's important that it stay downtown.

  • July 4, 2012 at 9:28 am
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    I voted for it to stay where it is because otherwise we'll have this huge, empty building right in the middle of our downtown. To turn it into anything other than a theatre is going to be a huge undertaking.

  • July 5, 2012 at 9:20 am
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    I go downtown for movies with my friends mainly because we can all walk or get the bus (we are students). Having an IMAX would be great, I don't think the old building could be renovated to accommodate that so I voted for North block.

  • July 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm
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    This is what we should be doing with Walmart, not building another one. http://grist.org/list/this-abandoned-walmart-has-

    I voted to keep the downtown theatre because it is great to walk to dinner and then to a movie, and a north block theatre won't likely happen or if it does it will probably be a suburban building typology which would be awful. No economic consideration given here, I get that it can't stay open, but that's not what the question asked.

  • July 6, 2012 at 11:41 pm
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    I'm very excited that my parent's neighbourhood will finally get an entertainment option that they can walk to! Downtown will survive without the current theatre's stale popcorn and smelly seats.

  • July 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm
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    My husband and I live downtown and enjoy seeing a movie after dinner or on a lazy Sunday afternoon when we can walk to the cinnema. It’s also great because it is still easily accessable in winter. Aswe don’t own a car or have monthly bus passes I think our trips to the theater at Kings Crossing will be rare.

    I agree that the downtown location doesn’t have as much to offer as the new facility boasts (also they really should get their speakers fixed in some of the theaters as the sound is aweful) but I can’t help but push for a theater to stay downtown. It would be a travisty to loose access to such a venue and entertainment.

  • February 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm
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    If anyone has an extra $3m lying around, you can have your very own former movie theater
    .

    Property tax only $89k

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