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

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

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Part 1 of the Hollywood Theatre trilogy short film series

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

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

Where we stand now, and how you can help

Thanks to your overwhelming turnout at our public meeting, your signing of the petition by the thousands, your letters, and your large numbers coming out to speak at City Hall, we have made great progress. We are now in discussion with both City Hall and with the owner of the Hollywoood.

We hope that these talks will lead to a successful saving of our precious Hollywood Theatre.

However, we know that the more reminders of support by the public that City hall receives over the next short while, the greater our chance of succeeding.

How can you help?

1. Write the Mayor and Council and ask two things

a) Save the Hollywood Theatre as a multi-purpose community and cultural space; and
b) Don’t pass the Development Permit application for a Fitness Centre while we are in the process of working to save the Hollywood.

2. Sign the petition.

3. Volunteer. Share your skills with our campaign by helping us on our various committees to keep the campaign going forward. With ongoing tasks including composing a business plan, contacting community and arts groups, maintaining mailing lists, and more, we need a wide range of skills.

Please do keep in mind though, that since we have such overwhelming support, we may have more people offering a particular skill than we can use at any one time. If that happens, we will keep your offer on file and get right back to you when and if things change.

We may need canvassers at some point (either door-to-door or on the street). Please let us know if you are interested in helping us with this.

4. Send in a letter of support from your community and cultural organizations to City Hall and cc it to us at savethehollywoodtheater@gmail.com.

5. Other creative suggestions or ideas are always welcome.

Thanks again for your continuing help and support!

Mel Lehan and Adam Abrams
Volunteer Coordinators,
Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition

Followup on Wednesday’s council meeting

In summary: “Save the Hollywood” Supporters crowded City Hall for the Heritage Report meeting.  Council listened, and moved an amendment to facilitate our goal of saving the Hollywood.  However, much work still remains to be done!

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who came out to speak for the Hollywood at City Hall on Wednesday. The turnout was amazing, with a total of 87 speakers putting themselves forward. While not all of them were there on behalf of the Hollywood, our voices formed the major component of the speakers list.

The Council Chambers and the balcony were filled to the brim and overflowed out into the lobby, where city staff had added rows of extra chairs to accommodate the crowd.

Your speeches were powerful, emotional and persuasive.

Bette Murphy led off by detailing what the Save the Hollywood Coalition would like to see Council do and how the Heritage Report could help in that effort to ensure that the Hollywood Theatre be saved.

Mel Lehan followed up with an inspiring recap of all the positive things the Coalition has done in the 25 days since we were asked to go out and put together a plan to save the Hollywood. He talked about all the interested purchasers, the arts and community organizations who have expressed interest in renting a saved Hollywood, and read out a list of all the organizations who have sent in letters of support for our effort to save the Hollywood Theatre.

These included:

  • The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

  • The Vancouver International Film Festival

  • The Arts Club

  • Rio Theatre

  • Doxa Film Festival

  • Vancouver Folk Fest

  • Music on Main

  • Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts

  • Co-op Radio

  • St. James Community Square

  • R2R

  • Artists in our Midst

  • Art for Impact

  • Limelight Video

  • Dunbar Theatre

…and many more.

Michele Smolkin urged the Councillors and the mayor to take this opportunity to send a clear message that the city will no longer stand for wanton destruction of history and culture in favour of unfettered development.

She noted that more than 6000 people have signed the petition, online and on paper, and that Vancouverites care passionately for the Hollywood and for heritage and cultural buildings. These included people from all over Vancouver, from all kinds of backgrounds and from all levels of income.

Adam Abrams was the cultural hit of the evening as after his fine speech he broke into song with an a capella chorus of “Hooray for Hollywood”, with custom-crafted lyrics addressing the issue at hand. It brought smiles to the faces of the Mayor and Councillors, and rousing applause from the crowd. (Watch it here!)

Terry Martin talked emotionally about what a wonderful community space the Hollywood could be, based on the way it has operated in the past year.

Jan Pierce summed up the goal of our Coalition — that we want this to be a win-win for the owner, the neighbourhood and the City.

In between these spokespeople were dozens of passionate, articulate and thoughtful personal stories and ideas for saving the Hollywood.  All the speakers were riveting. Of particular note was the voice of all ages, including numerous thoughtful and heartwarming stories  by seniors and many youth, including a  preteen girl, who spoke eloquently about what the Hollywood means to her.

Council heard us loud and clear.  After the public spoke, Councillor Heather Deal moved the following  amendment:

FURTHER THAT where heritage resources of particular community or cultural significance are at risk, the Director of Planning may consider measures beyond conditional zoning where it would assist community objectives for heritage preservation, subject to approval by Council after a public hearing; and that this policy specifically apply to the Hollywood Theatre.

Members of the Save the Hollywood Coalition are studying this amendment as well as the whole Heritage report, and analyzing what both of them can mean for our effort.

It is certainly a positive step forward.  All the actions that we have taken in the last short while – the overflowing public meeting at St. James Hall on Nov. 17; the 6000-plus signatures on the petition; the letters sent by individuals to City Hall; the letters of support from arts and community organizations; and finally, the large number of speakers at City Hall on Dec. 4, all helped to convince Council that there is overwhelming public support and a plan to make this happen.

The Coalition is continuing to work on securing purchasers, renters, and letters of support.  We are putting together a plan that we believe will be a win-win for the community, the owner and the City.

Stay tuned!

We need your voice this Wednesday!

SPEAKERS NEEDED TO PROTECT HOLLYWOOD THEATRE THIS WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4 @2pm AT CITY HALL!!

We need to have a HUGE showing of support to Save the Hollywood on Wednesday.

YOU can make a big difference to the fate of this community landmark by:

  • Getting on the speaker’s list for this meeting; and
  • Calling personally (not just by e-mail) your friends, family and fellow supporters of the Hollywood and urging them to also get on the speaker’s list

Register to speak by contacting Tina Hildebrandt, Meeting Coordinator. Call 604.873.7268 or register by email.

(Clicking the email link above will also send a copy of your message to us so we can keep tabs on how many speakers are registering.)

Podium-shy? Don’t worry! You only need to say one sentence to qualify as a speaker. Plus, if you wish to make a longer statement we have some notes and pointers to help you feel prepared and confident.

Time frame: The item we’re speaking to is eighth on the agenda list and we’ve been told it will not come up until around 2 pm. You can watch the online broadcast to see when you should head for City Hall. Or, contact us and we can advise you with a phone, text or email.

Thanks so much for your support so far. It’s made a big difference. We’re working hard on multiple fronts to keep the iconic Hollywood as a vital, heritage community and cultural space. We’re talking to renters, finding purchasers (found three so far), and putting together a business plan. But the pieces of our solution aren’t all in place just yet, and this Wednesday, we need you more than ever.

That’s when a report on Heritage will be presented at City Council. A council majority made the delivery of this report a keystone goal of the current 75-day moratorium protecting the theatre.

Many of the actions proposed in the Heritage Report will probably do little to help save the Hollywood Theatre as they apply to Heritage generally. But there are some specific actions that can make a difference in both the short and long term and we need you to come to support these actions if the retention of the Hollywood is to become viable.

We hope to see you, and a friend or three, on Wednesday to HELP SAVE THE HOLLYWOOD!

Suggested talking points if you’re speaking on Wednesday

If you’re speaking at City Council this Wednesday Dec. 4, thank you! If you haven’t signed up yet, click here for how to do it – it’s easy, and we need your voice!

Suggested speaking points

1.  Insist that the Hollywood be saved! The city should proactively work with the community and owner to establish a mutually agreeable solution to save the Hollywood that works for everyone. Tell what the Hollywood means to you and why it should be saved.

2. The city should extend the protection order for the Hollywood to the full 120 days allowable in order to provide the necessary time to work out a solution to save the Hollywood.

3. Voice support for the following four actions in the report to council.

(Sorry that these are a bit technical! If you wish to save time in your presentation you can express your support for the following four Actions by simply stating: “I support the four Actions recommended by the Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition.”)

a) Action 1 states that, “effective immediately, in situations where demolition or degradation of a heritage resource is proposed, the Director of Planning will consider only outright uses in any development applications.” To the extent that this recommendation is implemented in such a way as to apply to development applications already in process, we expect that it could be helpful in saving the Hollywood. We ask council to approve Action 1 as proposed and apply it to the Hollywood.

b) Amend Heritage Report Action #9 – Examine Incentive Program for Applicability Elsewhere to make it a “Quick Start” action allowing the heritage incentive programs in the DTES to be applied to significant heritage buildings outside of the DTES, including the Hollywood Theatre. Clearly, for the Hollywood to benefit, this Action would need to be implemented immediately or possibly on an interim basis with the Hollywood as a pilot project.  Our expectation is that property tax exemptions and façade grants could be particularly effective in relation to the Hollywood’s restoration and viability as a community-focused arts and culture venue.

c) Transferable density is already an available tool, but should only be part of a Heritage Revitalization Agreement that preserves the Hollywood as a complete and fully intact theatre/performance space. City Council and the Director of Planning do not need more powers to do this. No amendments are required to the report for density transfers.

In addition, we suggest you request that Mayor and Council give consideration to the Coalition’s following related recommendations:

  • The City should work proactively with the community and the owner to establish a mutually agreeable solution to save the Hollywood that works for everyone. As requested by both the owner and the Coalition, this should include providing resources of staff deployed immediately to put together data required to help us negotiate a reasonable solution. There is an overwhelming desire on the part of citizens, the community and arts and cultural organizations to save this irreplaceable element of Vancouver’s cultural heritage. Once destroyed it is gone forever.
  • In view of substantial progress already made, the city should extend the existing protection order for the Hollywood Theatre to the full 120 days to ensure a positive and optimum outcome.
  • The City should provide an option in principle to consider a density transfer to one or more appropriate properties owned by the same owner as the Hollywood Theatre in the Downtown District.
  • The City should provide funding options in the capital budget for potential purchase and/or renovation of the Hollywood Theatre as a community amenity for an arts and culture centre.

The Save the Hollywood Theatre Coalition encourages Mayor and Council to view the Hollywood Theatre as a litmus test for evaluating the proposed Heritage Action Plan.  If recommended improvements are insufficient to save the Hollywood, our view is that further work is required.

Please sign up to speak! We need your voice this Wednesday to save the Hollywood!