The credits finished rolling, the studio logo flashed, and the screen went dark. The last few audience members shuffled out and that was that- the end of the Globe Cinema.
I wanted to applaud. I wanted to cry. Instead, I shuffled out silently, too. The last customer to walk out of the Bijou.
It’s the second time the triplex in Portage Place has ceased operations, but I fear it’s also probably the last. I’ll remain hopeful that’s not the case.
I’ve always wanted to own a movie theatre. My mom recently showed me a drawing from grade 1. I had drawn the Famous Players St. Vital box office facade. The Portage Place theatre, with its unique decor, was a big part of my childhood, too.
I remember seeing Free Willy, which was put on for the city’s elementary school patrols. Other classics included Pocahontas, Grumpy Old Men, and Toy Story. Titanic was my first experience seeing gigantic lineups wrapping around the mall’s top floor (and any theatre, for that matter).
I even held a job at the Globe back in its early days- the summer and fall of 2003, before my family moved out of town. More on that in a bit.
The closure of the Globe should be alarming. With the Towne 8 on the inner edge of the Exchange District, there is no cinema in downtown Winnipeg.
Long before the Walmarts arrive, a movie theatre is something a small community can support. They’re centres that bring a community together, inclusive to the community at large unlike places of worship which bring together segmented communities.
Our cinemas connect us. They’re places we’re struck with laughter, with tears, or with awe. We sit in the same seats, see the same screens lit by new films destined to become classics.
It wasn’t always an in-out, big box retail experience devoid of any feeling because it’s been designed to maximize profit. As the 26-year-old complex shows us, it wasn’t even that long ago the cinema still played a part in the show. For over a quarter century old, it’s still incredibly comfortable, up-to-date technologically, and nicely decorated.
In Febraury 2004, having lived in the country for a couple months, I called the Grant Park theatre and asked when the Odeon Drive-In would be hiring for its season. They said it wasn’t going to open that summer. I broke word to Randall King (who interviewed me for his front page article), signed the petition, and ended up being hired there that summer. For the 2006 season, I was Assistant Manager. I ran the projector every night I worked and just loved spending as much time there as I could.
My next stop was SilverCity Polo Park, a theatre I attended on opening day. I was Projection Team Leader and loved the job. I still miss it, but theatres have moved from film to digital and the job no longer exists.
But that brings me back to the Globe. In my six months there was when I first learnt projection. I mastered those ancient projectors (they were old, but good, when installed for the theatre’s opening in 1987).
Even it had moved on to digital in the past couple years, silencing the projector’s purr at the back of the auditoriums as it hammered through the reels of film.
I always loved that sound.
Still, I’ve long felt the space wasn’t living up to its potential. When I worked there, we experimented with midnight shows. We ran A Clockwork Orange one Saturday night, for $5 a seat, and packed the house. The 35mm film print was so brittle, it kept snapping and shutting down the projector every two minutes.
After the first reel, the condition improved and we got through the rest. The audience didn’t even care. It was just part of the fun.
I think The Rocky Horror Picture Show should’ve been a semi-regular Saturday midnight feature, too.
There was a Facebook page that was short lived, so the theatre had next to no social media presence. It had a membership club with discounts earlier in its life, but that program was discontinued.
We also had a booking of the first Matrix reboot sequel. It didn’t really fit the arthouse format of the Globe, but it easily packed the house.
One of the ways the Globe debuted in town was with a roadshow of Sing-A-Long Sound of Music. I didn’t sing, but I did have fun, and that packed the place, too. The long line-ups for the women’s washroom resulted, for me, in the odd experience of having nuns behind me at a urinal.
But yes, in the last few years, I’ve seen the Globe get quieter. An industry metric says most theatres last about twenty years before being completely overhauled or, most usually, replaced by a new location somewhere else. Perhaps a lower traffic area like Portage Place Shopping Centre just lowered this life expectancy (the original Famous Players operation lasted 14 years).
I didn’t think it was going to last forever, but because (rumour had it) the Globe paid very little in way of rent as an incentive to stay open (I’ve seen this numerous times mentioned in Morley Walker articles, Free Press comments, and online forums), I thought it would kind of just chug along in a break even position for longer than just until last night.
We’ve lost a charming, cozy theatre. Every comment online surrounding the closure was sadness for how great the theatre was. It seemed like there were ways to tap demand for the venue.
If you’ve read this blog, I was moderately successful running my own drive-in on a barn. If I could have my dream and finally open a real theatre, I would love for it to be the Portage Place Cinema. I’d replace every second row with a countertop for dining, put a small commercial kitchen in one of the mostly unused stock areas with a small menu similar to Original Joe’s or Moxies (such as burgers, steak, blackened chicken), and get a liquor license. A VIP theatre downtown, made to be more of a event destination, with underground validated parking.
And since I don’t have anywhere near the money to do that, I do just hope someone will take another go in the space. Movies were always better in the downtown theatres.