The Fairleigh family commissioned architect Harold Cullern to build the Hollywood Theatre in 1935. For seventy-five years the cinema entertained the people of Kitsilano and city of Vancouver. In 2011, the Theatre was sold by the Fairleighs and two short years later, the news broke that the place was set to be gutted and replaced with a fitness centre by its new owner. Shock and disbelief at the potential loss of this beloved neighbourhood landmark soon led to swift action as a diverse group of local residents came together to protect the theatre as a community and cultural space.
A petition asking City Council to place a moratorium on demolition or redevelopment swiftly generated thousands of signatures. Hundreds attended a public rally to show their support. Out of those early efforts sprang what came to be known as the Save The Hollywood Theatre Coalition.
A subsequent City Council meeting saw a huge crowd pack the council chambers. Everyone spoke eloquently in support of the Hollywood. At that meeting, a resolution initiated by councillor Adriane Carr was passed, giving some satisfaction to the community. But that was only the beginning of the campaign.
The Coalition continued through countless phone calls, emails, meetings and lobbying, eventually writing a comprehensive business plan calling for “Reinventing the Hollywood” as a nonprofit community and cultural venue for the whole city to enjoy. These efforts have, so far, prevented the Hollywood from facing its final fadeout.
There have been many notable events over the eighty years the Hollywood has been with us. The last couple of years have been especially dramatic, with many twists and turns. As of this writing (March 2015), the theatre’s fate is in limbo. But hope remains strong that a solution can be found that works for the community, the owner, and the city as a whole.