Tinseltown hits the cutting room floor

29 11 2010

There’s few things better than catching a movie on a rainy Friday afternoon.

Parking is easy to find. There’s no line at the ticket counter. No chatty, rambunctious teenagers checking their text messages during the movie. And plenty of seats to choose from in the sparse theaters.

If there’s a Hollywood blockbuster that catches my fancy, I’ll usually stay out here in the ‘burbs and head to one of the SilverCity multiplexes. If it’s more esoteric, independent, arty fare I seek, I head downtown to the Fifth Avenue Theater or the Tinseltown.

The Tinseltown is no more. Now it's just another notch in the corporate belt of Cineplex-Odeon, the scourge of quality movie exhibition.


Alas, that last option is no longer available. While the Tinseltown is still in business, it’s now owned by Cineplex-Odeon, the same company that’s turned movie-going into a noisy, over-stimulated endurance test with its ubiquitous SilverCity’s.

I suppose it was inevitable. Cineplex-Odeon has been buying its competitors for years, inflating ticket and concession prices and limiting access to smaller movies along the way. In many cities, they’re the only movie player in town.

As the only Canadian outpost for the Texas-based Cinemark company, Tinseltown was ripe for the picking. When they came to town as part of the highly-anticipated upscale International Village shopping center on the edge of Vancouver’s Gastown and Chinatown neighborhoods, Tinseltown was supposed to be the beachhead for a Canadian invasion.

But the International Village was a dud. The food court is moribund, many of the stores are still empty. In fact, about the only thing that has been a success down there is the 12-screen theatre.

Tinseltown is a great place to catch a movie. It’s a short walk from the Stadium skytrain station, so it’s convenient. It has great deals for matinee admissions. The seats in the theaters are spacious and recline. Commercials prior to the main feature are minimal and are shown before the scheduled start time for the movie; so when a screening is supposed to start at 1 p.m., it really does start at 1 p.m., not 20 minutes later after Toyota and feminine hygiene product commercials and the trailers for upcoming films.

And, most importantly, its programming goes beyond the normal Hollywood blockbusters. It takes risks with small, independent films, film festival holdovers, foreign films and even the occasional Canadian feature that otherwise couldn’t buy its way into screen time at a Cineplex.

Cineplex-Odeon didn’t waste any time putting its stamp on its new acquisition; they changed the name to the cumbersome Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas, the cheap admissions for early matinees are gone, and there’s not a single foreign film in this week’s lineup.

It’s likely only going to get worse.

Cineplex-Odeon’s standards have been slipping the past few years. Most of the concessions are no longer open for weekday matinees. Staffing is minimal. The movie-viewing experience is deteriorating; I’ve endured sound problems, framing issues, and this past Friday I walked out of Russell Crowe’s latest, The Next Three Days, because the projection lens was dirty or smeared, robbing the film of all its contrast and color saturation.

So long Tinseltown. It was great while it lasted.