Tuesday, December 15, 2009

London lost its theatre district to the 'burbs

The destruction of the Capitol Theatre in London, Ontario, has taken me deep into the realm of "Welcome to the Third World". There are just so many better ways to use an essentially abandoned movie theatre than demolishing it for a parking lot.

When I moved to London there were three downtown movie theatres. Today there are actually more when you count all the screens at the Rainbow Cinema on the second floor of the Citi Plaza. Yet, I feel, and I think accurately that as a community we are poorer for the loss of those three Dundas Street movie palaces.

But, and this is the frightening idea, maybe we are not poorer. Maybe the reason they are gone is that we, as a community, are poor, and getting poorer with every passing year.

Maybe we lost them because we could not afford to keep them. Maybe we need to stem the economic bleeding in our community, return Londoners to a firm financial footing and then maybe we can then consider building a new and gorgeous performing arts centre.

If saving the Bowles facade taught us anything, it is that beautiful buildings are just that, beautiful buildings. We built 'em, we tear 'em down, and we can build 'em again if we want. We just have to have the bucks and the will.

This is the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. It has a bit of the feel of London Ontario's Grand Theatre, yes? This is but one of many old movie theatres across North America truly saved from the wrecker's ball.

So many places have saved their theatres. It is time to stop taking such deep bows for saving a facade, and not even all of that.

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