This week the Landmark Cinemas at Grant Park did a full reveal of the $2 million redevelopment of their eight screen movie theatre. Formerly know as the Empire Theatres, the movie chain was jettisoned by the Sobey family when their grocery division purchased Safeway.
Grant Park mall has been undergoing a years long renovation that has had to adapt as big changes in Canada’s retail market shook up the scene. The arrival of Target was the impetus of change at the shopping center but planners could not have forecast what was in store for the future. Sobey’s was forced to sell off four Safeways by the federal government for competition reasons and Grant Park Safeway was one of them. This brought a whole new player to town in the form of Red River Co-Op who for the last few decades were more known for gas and convenience stores rather than grocery.
Menawhile, all of this was happening at the same time as Zellers was closed and Target moved into Canada. For Grant Park it meant a multi-million expansion of old Zellers footprint to accommodate the new Target. Not to be outdone, McNally, Liquor Mart and Shopper’s all expanded.
The inside of the mall was upgraded was section at a time and some long time tenants closed or moved to make way for others. It was a bit of a mess and it continued for a few years.
However, it was all in anticipation of Target coming so every dollar spent was considered a worthwhile investment. And when Target finally opened? Pfft. It still had the new paint smell when the company decided to tuck tail, close and run home.
Still, Grant Park owners had already committed to completing the renovation they had set upon so floors and skylights proceeded apace.
Sobey’s Empire selling of their theatre division to Landmark Cinemas of Alberta was just one more adjustment along the way. The company was no stranger to Winnipeg as they continue to own the Towne in the downtown. However, the company had seemed content to stay out of the way of Cineplex and Empire for the big suburban movie houses.
At first Landmark just ran the theater as is with no major changes but it soon became apparent that the company wanted to upgrade and brand the theater as their own. To be sure, things are afoot in the movie business. The conversion of Cinema City to Odeon VIP for $4 million in 2012 introduced reserved seating and a licensed lounge and drinks at your seat. Both Silver City locations also had major upgrades and Imax added.
Landmark did one step further. They have made ALL their seats reserved. No more wondering if you get a seat separate from the rest of your party because of rush seating. A few years from now, movie goers will probably wonder why this never happened before.
So aside from the reserved seating, what else did the $2 million buy? It bought a lounge where a store once stood and a grander entrance to the lobby. The lounge is not licensed for alcohol but there are hints it will be. It is available to anyone in the mall as it is before the ticket collector for the theatres.
The new concessions are pretty snazzy but the highlight is three drink dispensers that can deliver 131 drink flavours and can even be mixed.
The decor and seating have all been refreshed and one theater has Extra enhancements for 3D and rocker seats.
In all a major improvement. Landmark has noticed that certain blockbusters are likely to be less attractive to clientele so expect a few more discerning movie goers to Grant Park. All in all the theater is a welcome improvement to the city.
While Grant Park is still putting together the last few pieces in the mall including a Northern Reflections opening in October, it still awaits the hard work to turn the old Target into a Canadian Tire. It will be at that time that the mall will be able to say that work for a time is complete.
This has been a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations