World Exchange Cinema Update: Bad News?

Enjoy the whales on your last trip up the escalator at the World Exchange cinema

There's been a disappointing development in the ongoing campaign to save the movie theatre at the World Exchange Plaza in Ottawa. The theatre, which is currently the last remaining multiplex in downtown Ottawa, has been a point of discussion ever since Empire Theatres decided to pull out of the movie business and left the theatre in limbo. Landmark Cinemas took over the theatre (as they did the Empire 24 in Kanata) and expressed interest in continuing their business at the World Exchange despite the fact that Empire’s lease was up at the end of the year and that the landlord made it pretty clear that a movie theatre wasn’t the WE’s ideal partner. New developments suggest that the theatre will indeed close at the end of the year.

The news comes from Marybeth in the Facebook group that was started in support of a theatre at the World Exchange and has been running a fine campaign to rally public support:

Hi folks. Just wanted to let you know that I have been informed that despite effort from both Landmark Cinemas and the landlord for the World Exchange Plaza, the parties are "unable to reach a mutually acceptable lease arrangement"… Given the time that has passed, this is not too surprising. The landlord will continue to look for a new tenant (which could include a theatre, though it is unlikely).

This news is certainly disappointing, since folks in the downtown core won’t have a venue to see many new film releases, aside from the consistently strong art house, independent, and alternative fare at The ByTowne and The Mayfair. (Both theatres, especially The Mayfair, also offer second runs of more mainstream films.) Early rumours and reports stated that city zoning requires some form of entertainment be present in the building, but the space has been tossed about as room for offices. Ottawa council recently pulled WE owner Investment Management Corp off the hook by saying “there is no obligation to keep the space for a theatre or any entertainment use as outlined in the development agreement.”

On the other hand, the controversy of the World Exchange theatre raised some question marks about the upcoming Lansdowne cinema, which was left without an owner following the Empire exodus. Potential buyers saw the World Exchange as undesirable competition, since theatres within close proximity would be competing for films. However, if the World Exchange is kaput, then Lansdowne (which is already undergoing construction) might become more appealing to a buyer.

Blah-ttawa might be a ghost town for a year or two, but now’s as good time as any to say good-bye to the World Exchange and explore some really great films that you’ve been missing at The ByTowne and The Mayfair. I guess my last film at the World Exchange will be a screening of Alexander Payne’s black and white Nebraska. That seems ironically fitting.