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Long Live the Screening Room

The Screening Room, Kingston, Ontario
Over the past few years, I have come to realize that I am a die hard cinephile, and just so we’re clear on what that means, I am an avid film enthusiast. I watch movies daily, sometimes over and over again, and often without regard for the critical acclaim, or lack thereof, of the film being screened. I tend to source the bulk of my movies via the local rental shop, but that’s partly owing to the fact that the Cineplex, Empire Theatre and seasonal Drive-In only deal in Hollywood blockbusters. Yes I have a soft spot for them too.  Aside from festivals such as KCFF and ReelOut, the only place in the Limestone City to get your fix of independent and offbeat films is the beloved Screening Room. Or at least it was.

Yesterday, one of our readers pointed out that the The Screening Room, a 2-screen theatre specializing in alternative and indie features, is for sale or lease. All the gory details are provided via the following advertisement which appeared on Kijiji:

The Screening Room-2 lovely operating movie theatres, turn key operation, seating 89 and 56. Showtimes 7 and 9 pm daily. Saturday and Sunday matinees. Rent $1115.00, utilities, taxes and common fees $1593.00. Approximately 3000 square feet. Approximately 4,000 on newsletter list. Gross Yearly $200,000 to $250,000. Specializing in art, foreign and Canadian movies. Loved by clientele. Includes popcorn, pop concession in Springer’s Square. Vendor take back possible.

I don’t normally write about local businesses coming and going, but the Screening Room has a very special place in my heart.  I can still remember the first time I visited our independent, hole in the wall theatre back in the first year of my under-grad. It was a glorious experience that was devoid of long line ups, lengthy commercials and pre-screening trailers, and the ticket price was easy on my empty wallet. Sure the chairs weren’t as comfortable, and the screen not as large as what was available at large cinema chains, but I was sold on the charm, and the on-screen product, which you could not get elsewhere. Over the years I returned regularly, introducing this downtown gem to friends and out of towners, who instantly appreciated what The Screening Room is all about.

In this day and age, anyone can go to their local multi-mega-plex and pay upwards of $15 a ticket for the latest 3-D concoction bought and sold by Hollywood’s biggest studios. While independent theatres aren’t unheard of, they are fast becoming a dying breed, and the thought of losing our Screening Room is rather disturbing. Without knowing what the future has in store for the business, I want to take this opportunity to thank the theatre’s curators for their tireless efforts, and for bringing such an array of fantastic indie films to Kingstonians. I truly hope that the right person will come along, and keep the reels spinning, and kernels poppin’.

What are your thoughts on the sale, lease and potential loss of the Screening Room?

Thanks to eflon for today’s accompanying 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...

16 thoughts on “Long Live the Screening Room

  • June 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm
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    have no fear, Terry won't shut it down / it's simply up for sale …make an offer

  • June 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm
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    if she were looking for a partner rather than a buyer, I might be interested…

  • June 8, 2011 at 11:22 am
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    I've already suggested (seriously) that we get together and buy this place, as a community co-operative. I have sent the SR an e-mail asking them whether they will allow the time for a community buy-out to be organised. There are several possible major investors, institutional and individual, and everyone I have talked to thinks this is a great idea.

    So, who's with me? If you are interested, contact me at: [email protected]

  • June 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm
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    i love the screening room. it has great potential. the thought crossed my mind too to buy it, but i probably shouldn't having no experience running that kind of business. it's encouraging to see other people are thinking the same way. i really hope an experienced, innovative, and enthusiastic person buys it and makes a go of it! it would be a huge loss for it to discontinue. here's hoping for a new beginning!

    3 cheers for the screening room!!!

  • June 9, 2011 at 9:41 am
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    If the SR folds, it will be a disaster. My partner and I go all the time, and it is one of Kingston's treasures. I cannot count how many great films I have seen there, and the place has so much charm. David, let us know what Terry says about time for a buy-out.

    • June 9, 2011 at 10:28 am
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      There is something positive afoot, but out of concern for confidentiality, I can't tell you more right now.

  • June 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm
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    Marketing report prepared for the Screening Room 3 years ago talks of student business having plunged due to downloading. That must have gotten exponentially worse since then http://www.scribd.com/doc/2679029/Direct-Response

    Mark Cuban was just in the news for putting his art house theaters up for sale

  • June 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm
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    This has actually put me into serious thought. I worked at the other cinema downtown for years, both as a manager and as projectionist, and of all the places I have worked, it remains my favourite. There is a lot of potential for a small theater such as the Screening Room, but great effort is always required to really keep the student population engaged as return customers, which is requirement for success in the downtown.

    $50k is a fair price for a turnkey operation though, depending on what the condition of the projectors, processors, etc are in. And also depending on what the actual equipment is.

    • June 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm
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      That's a key point, Ryan. The last place I was involved in we borrowed a projector for some time. Ironically, it was the fact that other theatres were closing that opened up the biggest opportunities for upgrading the equipment.

      There is still something very different about seeing a film in the company of others from downloading it and watching it on the computer. Pubs have survived despite the fact that you can buy cheaper drinks and drink them on your own at home. There's no reason why seeing a film should be that much different.

      I think the important thing is that it develops a more diverse audience, and does not rely on students. It can do this by offering specialist strands of programming appealing to particular groups and interests, in addition to the art house repertory stuff, and a greater number of themed events and festivals.

      Impriving the environment of the place to make it a really pleasant and unique place to go would also go a long way. It is a little bit worn and almost invisible right now.

  • June 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm
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    I would hate to see Kingston lose The Screening Room! If it's sold I hope that someone will keep its integrity alive. You're so right that it shows some amazing film gems there and I go as often as I can.

  • June 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm
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    keep in mind Ryan an older age demographic with disposable income is the key element for it's success

    just sit in front of the popcorn machine in the lobby on a Friday evening and "people watch" … no matter what is screening it's older-than-students arriving as couples and small groups checking in at the box office; and they're buying popcorn, candy bars etc where the profit is / the students, not so much but they certainly support The Screening Room during the weekend matinees as Thursday (Student Night)

    it's a social thing too for movie goers of certain ages where they want to go out and be with others whereas Netflix, downloading torrents etc is the epitome of 21st century social networking, it's not very social

    the variety of Canadian, independent and foreign language films screening are the award winning gems that draw movie lovers from Belleville to Brockville to visit The Screening Room often

    and who's not to say the new owners might be interested in screening an old-school dusk-to-dawn horror movie marathon or music documentaries / the venue has a lot of potential on top of it's near 20 years in the biz // my late Aunt sold hats on the second floor for thirty years when it was Stacey's Department Store so I have a sentimental attachment to that location as well as being proud supporter of The Screening Room

    whoever becomes the new owner of The Screening Room will enjoy everything it has to offer; not many people can honestly say they love their job

  • July 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm
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    congratulations to the new owner of The Screening Room! she'll be taking over at the end of July 2011

    and best wishes to Terry (former owner) who I've enjoyed a business relationship with and became dear friends since the mid 90s / Terry is a class act and I will continue to cheer you on along your journey

    The Screening Room, 120 Princess Street "a first rate show at a modest price"

    • July 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm
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      While I've only met Terry in passing a few times, my sincerest thanks to her if I don't see her before the new owner takes possession. Sad to see her go, but so very happy we won't be losing this fantastic resource.

      • July 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm
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        Well, the new owner is very nice too, and has some great ideas. You won't notice anything immediately but there will be some significant positive changes going on over the next year or so. Wendy (the new owner) is a real film buff and has a lot of energy and willingness to listen to other people, so The Screening Room should be going strong long into the future.

  • July 15, 2011 at 9:42 am
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    So glad to hear someone committed to film has taken over the reins of The Screening Room .. a hearty "Thank You" to Terry and to Wendy as well … Wishing her every success in her new venture.

  • July 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm
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    I would like to thank Terry for her professionalism, and concern for the Screening Room, although prior to listing it for Sale, I had never been there, on my arrival I was very impressed, and my goal then was to ensure we found a buyer who could follow in Terry,s footsteps,. that we did, and we did have a lot of other interest, but we feel the right person was able to purchase it, Good Luck Wendy.

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