Quebecor partnership may save the historic Cinema Imperial
Published Tuesday, August 22, 2017 9:15PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 22, 2017 10:57PM EDT
In its lifetime, Montreal’s landmark Cinema Imperial has endured almost as much drama as the films shown within it.
But a new player—Quebecor—may be the answer to the building’s struggle to pay off debts and find proper occupants.
The Cinema Imperial had been used primarily as the setting of the World Film Festival, but the festival’s success waned as the years went on. Bills went unpaid, staff quit, and creditors were rapidly closing in.
Now, Quebecor may enter what’s described as a “partnership” with Serge Losique—the current president of the board—and will assume the theatre’s debts.
Losique will remain in his position as president of the board, despite criticism of his handling of both the festival, and the theatre. However, the theater's board of directors will now have six members, with a renewed mandate to "pursue the Imperial's cultural mission and develop its programming in order to make the theatre financially stable," according to a release issued Tuesday.
"Preserving our cultural heritage is a core commitment for Quebecor," Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Quebecor, said in a statement. "Our support will ensure the survival of a cultural and architectural gem located in the heart of Montréal's Quartier des spectacles. We will also put Quebecor's strength behind the Imperial Theatre so it can realize its full potential and recover its old majesty.
However, questions remain about whether the 41st World Film Festival will go on as planned as of August 24th. Losique refused to comment on the matter.
However, finding a solution to the building’s financial woes is essential if the city wants to preserve the building as a heritage site—and these solutions will only prove successful on a long-term basis.
“Today it might be a press conference, but this is a historic building that has to remain for the next 50 years – so we can’t find a solution for just the next coming up weeks,” said Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal.
For cinephiles like Philippe Spurrelle, the Imperial is much more than just a slice of cinematic heritage.
“This is one of the last remaining cinema-type venues in the city, and for that reason alone I think it should be preserved,” Spurrelle told CTV Montreal.
The cinema opened in April of 1913, with a seating capacity of 2,300 people.
Over the next 80 years, the establishment would change ownership approximately five times, and undergo numerous renovations and name changes.
The Montreal World Film Festival was inaugurated in 1977, and is known as one of Canada’s oldest international film festivals.