Kensington’s iconic independent cinema known as the Plaza Theater will finally reopen to the public on Friday after a long hiatus caused by the pandemic.
The Plaza was established over 75 years ago. In September 2020, the historic theater was put up for rent, its future uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic reduced audiences worldwide.
This break will end with the newly renovated space that will welcome Calgarians to the cinema.
“It was really great to be able to do this,” said Fatima Dobrowolski, the new holder of the long-term lease. “We have had unprecedented support from the community, from the neighbors. Everyone seems to like the Plaza and seem to support us.”
As a longtime lover of the Plaza, Dobrowolski said she wanted the renovations to focus on the experience of coming to the movies.
This means that the new Plaza has been renovated to serve as a “community center” – with a cafe and bar open all day.
“That way customers can show up, get together a bit earlier, have a drink, eat at the cafe or at the food truck,” Dobrowolski said. “They can bring their food and drink into the theater itself and then have a place to upload and talk about what you just saw.”
As for renovations to the screening room itself, Dobrowolski said plans are still in the works — but renovating the building and the concession area is the first task.
“Our budget wouldn’t allow that all at once,” Dobrowolski said.
It’s important to Dobrowolski that Calgarians returning to the Plaza still feel a sense of familiarity.
“We met people who said it was the first place they saw a movie. Some people got married here,” Dobrowolski said.
“We love its historic position in the local community, and we hope these improvements will allow the Plaza to survive and that people can continue to make memories here as they once did.”
Kelly Mandeville, general manager of the Plaza, said that upon graduation, the theater was the first place she screened a film she had worked on.
“That’s kind of what drew me to this space. I got the chance to work on something I was invested in and wanted to save, not for myself but for everyone I know” , she said.
A food truck will be permanently installed outside, with a rotating residency to showcase local restaurateurs.
The Plaza begins its reopening on Friday evening with screenings of Belfast and Dunes.