Brian Jackson, the city’s general manager of planning, recently released a memo to Vancouver city council outlining the status of the Hollywood Theatre and St. James Community Square. In it he reiterates the responses to our questions for clarification on a variety of points.
We invite all supporters of the Hollywood Theatre to attend the big-screen premiere on Saturday, November 1 of The Hollywood – Till We Meet Again. It’s the finale of the “Hollywood Trilogy”, produced by Curtis Emde and Silmara Albi’s (aka “The Projection Project”).
It will be shown at Vancouver’s noted art house cinema, The Cinematheque, on Saturday November 1st (doors opening at 2pm). The movie will be screened alongside the artwork of projectionist Al Reid and a couple of other surprise film shorts.
Hosted by local film history professor and movie critic Michael van den Bos and featuring some fabulous door prizes, this is one matinee not to be missed.
Saturday, November 1st – doors open at 2pm
1131 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2L7
Admission by donation
Since this all began, there have been two previous petitions – and both were instrumental in showing support for the Hollywood. The message and the goal has evolved, and now we have created a new and timely petition to let Mayor Gregor Robertson and council know that Vancouver supports the City’s acquisition of the Hollywood and its subsequent operation by a community-based nonprofit. This is the one best way to ensure that a reinvented, revitalized Hollywood Theatre is a part of Vancouver’s neighbourhood and cultural landscape for years to come!
Please sign the petition and share it with your friends, and encourage them to do the same. It WILL make a difference! Thanks for your support!
(For details on why acquisition of the Hollywood by the City is the best way forward, see our recently published business plan, Reinventing the Hollywood.)
[Friday, June 20, 2014] The Save the Hollywood Coalition has released a comprehensive plan to reinvent the Hollywood Theatre as a heritage-designated, public arts and culture venue. The business plan, presented to the City’s General Manager of Community Services, Brenda Prosken, provides a detailed accounting of the Coalition’s vision for acquisition, renewal and operation of the Hollywood in the context of Vancouver’s broader arts and culture landscape and relevant City policy.
Recommendations by Vancouver’s Creative City Task Force led to the City’s adoption of a new Culture Plan for Vancouver 2008 – 2018 that seeks to “increase public participation and community engagement in arts and culture” by “promoting local arts and culture” and by “improving arts access for new and under-served communities”.
At this very moment the City is updating its register of cultural spaces through an interactive, on-line mapping project and results unfortunately confirm what locals already know; that there’s a significant lack of cultural capacity on Vancouver’s westside. The iconic Ridge Theatre and the Cellar Jazz Club are only the latest casualties, and not because these cultural enterprises weren’t successful, but rather because they were simply swept aside in the wake of Vancouver’s surging property market.
City Hall is well aware of this dilemma. At a recent forum organized by Vision Vancouver, titled “Protecting Vancouver’s Cultural Spaces: Preserving Culture In A Growing City”, Councilor Heather Deal was perfectly honest in admitting that “the City could do a lot better” and the Coalition agrees. In fact, thanks to an amendment put forward by Councilor Deal in November of last year, the City’s Heritage Action Plan was adopted with specific direction to “assist community objectives for heritage preservation” with respect to the Hollywood Theatre.
So, why is the City sitting on the fence and keeping the Coalition on the sidelines as negotiations between the Hollywood’s owner and the Point Grey Community Church appear to be headed for an outcome that will neither protect the Hollywood’s heritage nor realize its fullest potential as an arts and culture venue for the broader community?
The Coalition’s recent request for a status update and meeting was met with the following response from Brian Jackson, the City’s General Manager of Planning and Development:
“We have nothing new to report since our last correspondence on this issue. My understanding is that negotiations between a willing seller and willing purchaser are continuing. As I mentioned during our meeting, if you have someone who is interested in purchasing the Hollywood Theatre, they should contact (the owner) as soon as possible. I do not think it would be productive to have a meeting with city staff until this has occurred.”
What’s clear is that City Hall does not want to own the Hollywood. What’s not clear is why.
There is surely no shortage of precedents to confirm the stability and value of city-owned cultural spaces, now numbering more than 50 and with the majority operated by non-profit arts and culture organizations. As secure public assets and with the benefit of favourable leases and property tax exemption, these city-owned cultural spaces are uniquely viable and offer unmatched long-term stability in the context of Vancouver’s soaring property market. There is simply no evidence to suggest that any other model is capable of delivering similar public-use capacity.
The Coalition is confident that a city-owned outcome is achievable for the Hollywood and that it is the only outcome that will enable the theatre to realize its fullest potential. By transferring buildable density from the Hollywood site to the owner’s adjacent property, and by waiving related development fees (DCLs), the residual value of the Hollywood can be dramatically reduced and potentially written off. Far from unaffordable, the Hollywood represents a unique opportunity to establish a landmark arts and culture venue for a tiny fraction of its value. Failure to seize the moment would deprive the City and its taxpayers of a very attractive investment.
Extensive market research and consultation with arts and culture organizations across Vancouver has confirmed strong demand for additional media/screen and live presentation space and the Hollywood is uniquely suited to supply both. Conservative budget figures presented in the Coalition’s plan demonstrate the Hollywood’s potential to be a fiscally sustainable enterprise while contributing very productively to Vancouver’s cultural capacity. Strategically located on the Broadway Corridor and in the heart of Kitsilano, the Hollywood is perfectly positioned to entertain and inspire an under-served public that is destined to grow.
It’s time to put the Hollywood back on the map! From Creative City to Engaged City the Coalition’s plan to Reinvent the Hollywood is perfectly aligned with a broad array of progressive city policy. Dig in. Read all about it.
Why is City Hall avoiding the Hollywood’s brightest future?
Here’s a great video by local band Frãmz, that was filmed in part right at the Hollywood Theatre and makes great use of its classic interior.
Thursday, May 8, 2014: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Church purchase leaves theatre heritage at risk; City ownership still the best option
The Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition, that has led a public campaign to protect the theatre, is concerned that the Point Grey Community Church plan for the Hollywood would neither secure the theatre’s heritage nor realize its fullest potential as a public arts and culture venue.
The community advocates for:
- full heritage designation of the Hollywood Theatre exterior, interior and theatre use;
- having a community-based, arms-length group responsible for overseeing programming of the theatre through a community-use agreement; and
- ensuring any bonus density or other incentives granted result both in heritage protection and flexible community use in perpetuity.
The Church has not indicated their proposal includes these basic requirements for community support.
The Coalition’s plan has been outlined in our document “Reinventing the Hollywood“. This outlines the option to revitalize the Hollywood as a vibrant arts and cultural centre that the City could acquire at a reasonable cost. It would be operated as a self-supporting non-profit society in the model of Kitsilano ‘s St. James Community Square which has operated independently for 20 years as a community cultural venue.
St. James and arts organizations across the city have expressed support for the Coalition’s vision to save the Hollywood. Heritage Vancouver Society has very strongly supported full heritage designation of the Hollywood exterior, interior and theatre use.
Steve Edge, who has been Artistic Director of the Rogue Folk Club for 27 years, said “Vancouver has very little in mid-sized performance venues between 400 and 1,000 seats. The Hollywood would fill this niche with an affordable 500 – 600 seat venue for community arts groups, theatres, and concert presenters that is much needed.”
The Coalition also has an extensive business plan that outlines how this can be accomplished which is soon to be released.
For further information on this issue, please see this background document.
Backgrounder for our press release of May 8, 2014.
The Save the Hollywood Coalition is raising concerns around recent news of a purchase agreement announced by the Point Grey Community Church (PGCC). The Church’s press release on May 1st revealed that it is planning to purchase the Hollywood Theatre, subject to sale of other assets and additional confidential conditions being negotiated with the current owner. The release stated, in part, that such a purchase would provide the Church with “the opportunity to continue engaging with local community programs, cultural events and initiatives.”
But according to the Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition, that has led a public campaign to protect the theatre, the Church’s plan for the Hollywood would neither secure the theatre’s heritage nor realize its fullest potential as a public arts and culture venue. Most importantly, there is no mention whatsoever of formal heritage designation. On the contrary, the Coalition understands, on the basis of a recent meeting with PGCC representatives, that the Church is contemplating major changes to the Hollywood’s interior, including addition of a partial second floor extending well into the auditorium. In addition to transforming the theatre’s heritage interior, the modification would remove the projection room and effectively end use of the Hollywood’s 35 mm projection system. These contemplated modifications are inconsistent with heritage preservation and amount to a significant change of use.
The Coalition appreciates the Church’s efforts to promote the Hollywood’s heritage and raise its profile in the period following the theatre’s closure in 2011. But the Hollywood is a theatre, not a church – and the Church’s priority is its religious ministry, not heritage preservation or arts and entertainment. Vancouver’s westside communities already benefit from a wealth of churches and other religious institutions, but there is a critical and ever-growing shortage of arts and culture capacity. The Hollywood Theatre represents a unique opportunity to resist the trend and rebuild our vanishing cultural landscape.
The Coalition is concerned that the Hollywood will be effectively converted into a private church hall with it only being available to the community and arts groups on the side at the Church’s discretion.
The Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition’s plan
In contrast, the Coalition’s vision for reinventing the Hollywood as a heritage-designated, public arts and culture venue would embrace the Hollywood’s past as a key element of its future. Heritage-sensitive renovations of stage and lobby areas would create a more vibrant and versatile theatre/performance space while respecting the Hollywood’s architectural integrity. Similarly, 35 mm film would continue to be a prominent part of the Hollywood’s program alongside the latest in digital cinematography.
In ongoing discussions with City Hall, and in their publicly stated position paper, the Coalition has urged the City to acquire the Hollywood, using a reasonable density transfer if necessary, in return for heritage designation of exterior, interior and theatre use and a community-use agreement for a broad-based cultural and community use in perpetuity. The Coalition’s plan has been outlined in our document “Reinventing the Hollywood“.
The Coalition also has an extensive business plan that outlines how this can be accomplished. The business plan demonstrates how the Hollywood can be a low-cost self-supporting venue.
The Hollywood is no ordinary building; it is an art deco monument to a golden age of movies and community spirit. While some of its facilities are in need of an upgrade, most of the heritage features remain functional, such as the 35 mm projection room and screen and sound system which are unique. These important heritage elements remain at risk in the Church’s current plans. The Coalition insists that they be designated and protected.
The Coalition plans include modifications to the stage to allow for live music events. Steve Edge, who has been Artistic Director of the Rogue Folk Club for 27 years, said “Vancouver has very little in mid-sized performance venues between 400 and 1,000 seats. The Hollywood would fill a niche with an affordable 500 – 600 seat venue for community arts groups, theatres, and concert presenters that is much needed.”
The upgrading would also add digital projection equipment, expand the lobby, add accessible washrooms, and create a green room for the stage. All of this is feasible and is detailed in the Coalition’s business plan.
City ownership is the preferred option for a community amenity
The proposed purchase agreement by the Church is great for the buyer and seller, however, not only does it leave everyone else out in the cold, it denies the community a vibrant and flexible performance space. With the recent demolition of the Ridge and the closure of the Jazz Cellar, we are witnessing a disturbing trend of increased housing density and decreased cultural amenities. The Coalition has developed a plan whereby the City can purchase this wonderful theatre at an affordable price; and which will not become a burden to taxpayers in the future.
Steve Edge is confident that the Hollywood will be a self-supporting venue, just as the St. James Community Square has been during its 20 years in operations, where the Rogue Folk Club has operated. Steve Edge said, “The St. James’ board fully supports the Coalition’s proposed model for the Hollywood as a City-owned cultural facility run by a non-profit.”
In conclusion, City ownership and community programming of the Hollywood is still the best solution, the one the Coalition supports, and Vancouverites insist that City Council pursue. With an election looming, it’s more urgent than ever that City Hall listen to the community’s wishes and do what’s best for all concerned, not just the purchasers and power brokers. The Hollywood should be for everyone.
The Save the Hollywood Coalition has support in writing for City ownership and community programming from arts organizations across the city. Heritage Vancouver Society has very strongly supported full heritage designation of the Hollywood exterior, interior and theatre use.
The Hollywood is one of the very last heritage theatres in Vancouver and the last one west of Granville. It is a valuable art deco heritage asset that must be saved. We are not there yet.
We encourage the City to work with the Coalition and the theatre’s present owner to achieve a solution that embraces the Hollywood’s heritage while ensuring its brightest future.