Hollywood Theatre tops Heritage Vancouver’s annual “Top 10 Endangered Sites” list

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Photo courtesy Heritage Vancouver

Photo courtesy Heritage Vancouver

Heritage Vancouver just released their annual list of endangered sites, and the Hollywood Theatre is in the #1 spot.

The list is much anticipated by heritage advocates, as well as anyone concerned about preserving the character of this city in the wake of the pell-mell rush of development.

While this is not a list that we would wish to be on top of, the fact is that it makes for a tremendous boost in awareness of the plight of the Hollywood, and that is very welcome.

One can only hope that this extra publicity helps speed us toward a solution that benefits the community, the owner, and the city. Read the Coalition’s vision of how that would work, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to write the Mayor and council with your support!

For full details, check out today’s report in the Vancouver Courier.

How the City’s next move can make or break the Hollywood

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Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 11.06.54 PM

First, the good news: a clear vision for the Hollywood is now on the table. One that would see this heritage landmark and much-loved neighbourhood cinema not just preserved, but transformed into something even better than before – a vital and dynamic hub for cinema, music, film festivals, lectures and forums, and much more.

(Click to read the document, Reinventing the Hollywood)

Now the not-so-good news: despite some welcome actions so far, plus assurances that they are working toward a balanced solution that addresses issues raised by the Coalition while respecting the interests of the Hollywood’s current owner (and parties who may be interested in purchase of it), the City appears to be avoiding the one solution that’s most likely to make this vision a reality. That solution? For the City to acquire the Hollywood as a heritage-designated, public arts and culture space.

For them to do so is no stretch of the imagination – it is a well-established model that is already the underpinning of Vancouver’s vibrant cultural realm. Did you know that in addition to Vancouver’s premier civic theatres, including the Orpheum, QE Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse, the City owns another 27 facilities that are operated by nonprofit arts and cultural societies? From the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (“The Cultch”) and the Firehall Theatre, to the Vancouver Art Gallery and the new York Theatre, Vancouver’s rich artistic and cultural life is in large part played out in City-owned spaces, that more often than not have significant heritage value as well.

The Coalition is confident that a City-owned outcome is achievable for the Hollywood, and is the only outcome that will enable the theatre to realize its fullest potential as an arts and culture hub on the city’s westside. There is simply no evidence to suggest that any other model is capable of delivering similar public-use capacity, economic viability or long-term stability in the context of Vancouver’s surging property market.

Despite much positive work, the City’s current leadership has also faced a good deal of criticism from neighbourhood groups, claiming that the City’s vision for Vancouver’s future is out of touch with local perspectives. We believe that the Coalition’s vision for the Hollywood’s future represents a great opportunity for the City to embrace a broadly popular movement that would speak volumes to voters about Council’s commitment to the heritage, local aspirations and cultural vitality of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.

Please read “Reinventing the Hollywood, our just-completed, 10-page summary outlining our vision for the Hollywood’s future as a City-owned nonprofit arts and culture hub. Write City Council to show your support for this plan. And share this with anyone you know who cares about keeping Vancouver a vibrant, visionary and culturally dynamic place.

Take action:

1984 Vancouver Province article on the Hollywood

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Michael Walsh has shared with us a great article on the Hollywood Theatre that he wrote for the Province back in 1984, documenting the neighbourhood cinema’s creative attempts to survive and thrive as an independent.

Click to read this great blast from the Hollywood’s not-so-distant past.

(You can find tons more great reading on Michael’s blog, Reeling Back: Everything Old is New Again.)

Petition to save Vancouver’s character houses

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This petition was started by Caroline Adderson, a heritage advocate and friend of the Hollywood Theatre. Her Vancouver Vanishes page is “a lament for and a celebration of the vanishing character homes of Vancouver.” Although she has already well surpassed her petition’s goal of 2,300 signatures, we wanted to mention and link to it here. If you haven’t already, we certainly encourage you to sign it.

Click here to view and sign the petition.

From the petition introduction:

More than 750 homes are demolished annually in Vancouver, many of them pre-1940s houses built with a high level of craftsmanship and quality materials. Most of these homes are already adapted, or adaptable, to modern living requirements and are a more affordable and ecologically sustainable option than the houses that currently replace them. Each demolition sends more than 50 tonnes of waste to the landfill, taking with it the history and character of the streetscape and the mature gardens that grace our established neighbourhoods.

January 21 update: Where we stand – and the special skill we’re urgently seeking

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Hollywood Theatre circa 1961. Thanks to the Kits (Now and Then) Facebook Page for the photo.

Hollywood Theatre circa 1961. Thanks to the Kits (Now and Then) Facebook Page for the photo.


Many of you have been asking for an update on what’s happening. Some media reports have implied that the Hollywood is safely out of danger, however this is by no means the case. We apologize for not providing more info sooner, but things have been very much in flux; sometimes the outlook seemed to go from ecstatic to gloomy within hours. But as we write this, though the outcome remains far from certain, our hopes are moving in a positive direction. We now can give you a hint of where we’re at.

At the same time, there’s some vital new tasks on our plate that we’re hoping some of you could help with. Read on! (Or click to go straight to what we need!)

Committee activity

The Coalition has been communicating and meeting regularly through the Christmas holidays. Subcommittees have focused on the many key tasks, including contact with the City and with the owner; assembly of a detailed business plan; communicating with potential buyers; and researching successful examples of similar endeavours across the country and around the world.

Meetings of key players

Most recently, a meeting was held between representatives of the Coalition and of city staff. And our understanding is that the owner, Dino Bonnis, continues to be interested in a solution that would work for the community, the city, and himself. But the final shape of that solution is yet to be fully defined.

Encouraging statements from City Hall

Meanwhile, in the media and in response to supporters’ letters, positive statements appeared from city councilors Geoff Meggs. A welcome statement was, “the city cannot and will not issue any development or demolition permits for the site.” He also said, “the theatre is safe from demolition and redevelopment until a suitable solution is found. There will be no development permit issued until future use is determined.”

Despite these encouraging signs, we continued to advocate to City Council for a 45-day extension (to the maximum 120 days allowable) of the protection order. Many thanks for the number of letters that supporters sent to City Council about this. While the order did expire on Monday January 20th, and we didn’t get it formally extended, we have – thanks in part to your letters – been assured that the City and the owner have agreed to honour the 45-day protection period unoficially.

What we need now

One of the options we are exploring is to find a philanthropist who would buy the Hollywood and gift it to a nonprofit “Hollywood Theatre Society” for operating in perpetuity as a community movie, arts and performance space. There are a number of variations on this concept under consideration, modeled after many other nonprofit success stories, but the key is finding potential donors and/or owners.

This is quite a pressing issue and we must act on it very soon. However, locating such people is not something any of us are experts at, nor can we (due to the existing, essential committee work) devote full time to it.

This is one area where you can be of vital help. We need people who are knowledgeable about fundraising, and experienced at locating, approaching and communicating with potential owners or donors. Not necessarily asking for anything directly, but just able to “open the doors”, so to speak.

Of course, we are also happy to hear directly from anyone who might have the capacity and interest, if not to purchase the Hollywood then to at least make a sizable donation – not only individuals but also corporations/organizations. But the key task is to research and find people who would welcome the opportunity to put their resources to work for something that will have tremendous meaning for both themselves and the community at large.

If any of this sounds like something you, or someone you know, may be able to help with… please get in touch with us by contacting the Save the Hollywood Coalition at savethehollywoodtheater@gmail.com .

We are at a critical juncture in the process of preserving the Hollywood for future generations. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, we will have a successful outcome and a two-thumbs-up “Hollywood Ending” we can all be truly satisfied with!

Adam Abrams

Communications Committee,
Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition

Part 1 of the Hollywood Theatre trilogy short film series

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Our thanks to Silmara Albi, Curtis Emde and everyone at The Projection Project for their wonderful work, including two short films in a “Hollywood Trilogy”. We’ve posted their most recent one here on our site, but here is the one that started it all – back in the heady days when the biggest challenge was getting “It’s a Wonderful Life” ready to screen in time.

Here’s hoping that the final part of the trilogy has the kind of ending we all want to see!

The Hollywood needs your help – urge council to extend the protection order

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The current protection order securing the Hollywood Theatre expires on January 20. But more time is needed while communication continues between the owner, council and the Community to come up with a suitable plan. City Council can only extend the order via a special meeting, which needs to be agreed to ASAP.

Could you please write a letter like this below to the Mayor and City Council and send it as soon as possible?

Please ask your friends on Facebook and social media too. Politicians react to public pressure. Your role is important.

Act today, and help us save the Hollywood Theatre!


Suggested letter

To Vancouver Mayor and City Council

As a supporter of the “Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition”, I am asking the City to extend its protection order for 45 more days from the original protection order. This order protects the exterior and interior of the Hollywood and will give more time needed for communication between the owner, council and the Community to come up with a suitable plan for the Hollywood. We urge City Council to call a special meeting to extend the protection order before it expires on January 20, 2014.

Yours Truly

[Your name]


Click here to create a blank email pre-addressed to the the city’s project coordinator, the mayor, and all councillors – plus a CC copy to us so we will have a record of your letter.

If the above link doesn’t work, simply copy the following block of text and paste it into your email program’s “to” field:

gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca, clraffleck@vancouver.ca, clrball@vancouver.ca, clrcarr@vancouver.ca, clrdeal@vancouver.ca, clrjang@vancouver.ca, clrlouie@vancouver.ca, clrmeggs@vancouver.ca, clrreimer@vancouver.ca, clrstevenson@vancouver.ca, clrtang@vancouver.ca, savethehollywoodtheater@gmail.com

Thank you so much for your help,
Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition