Dolphin Cinemas closing in North Burnaby

After more than 50 years of showing films in north Burnaby, Dolphin Cinemas is taking the reels off the projector for good.

The historic theatre, located at 4555 Hastings St., is closing its doors on Tuesday, May 27, to make way for a combined apartment complex and retail centre. According to Rahim Manji, who’s operated the Dolphin since 2010, there isn’t enough financial security to continue running the theatre.

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“It’s unfortunate that it has to be done,” he said. “It’s hard for independents to last nowadays – we need more support, and coming to that digital age, it becomes very expensive to move over.

“It’s come down a little bit in price (over time), but it’s not enough for the independents. But you have to do it – either do it or get out of the business.”

While Manji also operates the other Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Surrey and Pitt Meadows – which are fully digitized – he said the impending transition from film to digital has forced many independent theatres to shut down. In all of Burnaby, the Dolphin is the last independent standing, leaving SilverCity Metropolis at Metrotown as the city’s sole movie theatre.

“Being one of the last independents, it’s a heartache,” he said.

As of this week, many movie posters are already in boxes and the staff are preparing for the last few screenings before everything is packed away.

Despite a year-long search for an alternative location, Manji has been unable to secure an economically realistic spot, though he plans to continue searching for somewhere to reopen the Dolphin if there’s a viable option.

“We just can’t find anything that makes sense,” he said. “The city’s been really good about helping us and they said they’ll rezone almost anywhere for us – it’s just finding something with the proper rent.”

Sometime after Tuesday, the cinema will be town down and replaced with a four-storey mixed use development. The building will have at-grade retail stores, 11 accessible rental units on the second floor for the not-for-profit Vancouver Resources Society and 20 units of market housing on the top two floors.

Manji credited the Dolphin’s landlords for doing everything they could to keep the theatre running, and thanked the community for embracing the independent cinema over the last five decades.

“The customers we have are great – we really, really appreciated their support,” he said. “We had our regulars who came on weekly basis, our Toonie Tuesdays took off, we had lots of people coming out on Tuesdays – it was something affordable for the families.

“It was here for about 50 years and it was a staple in the community. It will definitely be missed.”

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