A new life for the Empress Theatre
CTV Montreal: Empress to once again screen movies
Published Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:12PM EDT
The old Empress Theatre in Notre-Dame-de-Grace might draw a crowd once again.
Boarded up for more than 15 years, the former Cinema V on Sherbrooke St. West will be refurbished, following a proposal approved Wednesday night by the borough of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace.
The shuttered Empress currently casts a shadow in the neighbourhood, where nearby businesses have long fought to remain open, many unsuccessfully.
But meantime, that stretch of Sherbrooke St. is strikingly similar to Beaubien St. in Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, where a mix of residential and commercial properties sit adjacent to a beautiful park.
Business is thriving on Beaubien, thanks to the opening of Cinema Beaubien 11 years ago.
Local rented businesses are open and doing very well.
Mario Fortin, general manager of the Beaubien Cinema -- a non-profit, community enterprise – said he hopes to bring that same movie magic to NDG.
Fortin is involved in NDG Cinema, the non-profit group whose Empress project got the green light from the city, effectively winning a public competition over how best to restore the building.
“More or less, with the experience I have, there will be four screens, 500 seats total and it's going to take the second floor of the cinema,” he said.
There will also likely be a restaurant and another commercial space in the building, both yet to be determined.
The Empress Cultural Centre, the other group that submitted a project, is disappointed after working on the project for two years, however.
The group had hoped the building would contain a performance space and a space for educational activities.
Borough Mayor Michael Applebaum said, however, that Cinema NDG's budget sealed the deal. It was closer to the $12 million required to renovate, including a $5-million dollar financial commitment already provided by the Caisse Populaire.
“This is a group that has shown it has a track record for 10 years,” he explained. “They've been managing Cinema Beaubien and now we're bringing it to NDG with an NDG flavor.”
Paul Scriver, president of the Empress Group argued that the city's process was unfair.
“Where's the community input on this? And why would the city pit community groups against one another in a contest more suitable to professionals?” he said, adding that it’s important to move forward.
“Our goals were to redevelop the Empress with a cultural purpose and to preserve the heritage, and if the Cinema NDG So the ECC is committed to that, then we're supportive of them.”
Many financial details still need to be established.
Cinema NDG has been given until the end of 2013 to gather funding and present its final plan.