Cowichan Valley’s only movie theatre closes after rent increases

CHEK

Duncan’s only movie theatre has been a part of the Cowichan Valley for 30 years, but it may have seen its final screening.

“It’s pretty upsetting being the only entertainment for young people in the Cowichan Valley,” said Carter Zuback, a former customer.

The Caprice Theatre closed down Saturday to the shock of many of its customers.

“I was just on the phone with my girlfriend about it, and I actually came over here to check to see if it was closing,” said Cal Elliott, another former customer.

“It does honestly make me kind of sad because it’s the only local theatre around here. Otherwise, you’ve got to go to Nanaimo or Victoria.”

The theatre’s owner says fading to black was a difficult decision — but tough economic conditions were making it harder and harder to turn a profit.

“I don’t think the disposable income is as high as it used to be pre-COVID. That was one of the factors. The other factor was a 300 percent increase in rent,” said Moby Amarsi, who has owned and operated the Caprice Theatre for the past 10 years.

Amarsi says he was trying to extend the lease with the building’s owner for at least a few months, but he was given notice two weeks ago to close on Dec. 30.

“This is not a good time to close because schools were out, and we were getting very busy, so it was not an easy decision,” said Amarsi

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples says it’s really sad the theatre is closing.

She says she’d love to see a non-profit arts organization start operating it and take it in a new direction. She suggests it could host community events, screenings and festivals.

But even though there’s a closed sign on the building, Armarsi says he doesn’t think movie theatres are a sunset industry. Even with the heightened competition from streaming services, he says he’d be willing to open another theatre in Duncan if conditions were right.

“Hopefully, we can establish it as a non-profit, or if the city will give us some space, we can establish a new state-of-the-art movie theatre,” said Amarsi.

As for any unused gift cards moviegoers may have, Amarsi is promising to refund them and can be reached through the Caprice social media pages.

The Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre in Victoria also recently closed, but it’s looking for a new location to operate.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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