Cineplex shuttering Bridgewater location

BRIDGEWATER - Cinematic big screens in town are going dark 20 years after movie-goers rejoiced the return of blockbuster films after a previous absence.

On March 15, Cineplex Cinemas, which has a seven-screen theatre located off LaHave Street near the mall on Bridgewater's east side, confirmed the site is shuttering.

"Yes, we've made the difficult decision to close our Cineplex Cinemas Bridgewater location. Our last day of shows will be on April 29," Michelle Saba, a communications vice-president with the Ontario-based entertainment company, told LighthouseNOW in an email.

The company declined a phone interview for this story but agreed to comment later about the decision.

It's unclear how many jobs are lost by Cineplex's choice and what the future holds for the property, which online records indicate is owned by Sobeys Land Holdings Ltd. LighthouseNOW reached out to Sobeys for comment but didn't receive a response by deadline.

For locals who like watching Hollywood releases on a big screen, it's a lost opportunity. Bridgewater's mayor, David Mitchell, who enjoys regular trips to the theatre, said he's "heartbroken" by Cineplex's move.

The theatre's closure is a loss for the region and not just the town, he told LighthouseNOW in a phone interview. Those who want to go to the Cineplex theatre after April 29 will have to drive to New Minas or Halifax.

"Our closest movie theatre is an hour away," Mitchell said. "It's very disappointing."

He's contacted Cineplex Cinemas with the intent of having a conversation about potential options, particularly as it relates to developers and potential uses for commercial space.

"Entertainment venues like this one are important, so I'm not letting this go," the mayor said.

One option that's not on the table is money. "That's never, ever, ever going to happen," Mitchell added. "There's zero ability nor desire for the town to provide any kind of assistance to a for-profit company. It's illegal."

Since the news of the cinema's demise circulated, online petitions have been generated in hopes of preventing the closure.

The site's seen it's share of business challenges over the years.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the site temporarily closed due to public health restrictions. The property actually became a public virus testing site for a period of time.

In 2016, the theatre's future became a public discussion topic when new cinematic releases opened to empty venues, there were fewer available choices at concession stands and Cineplex's free promotional magazines disappeared from news stands in the building. At the time, a Cineplex spokesperson maintained the site was "performing well" despite the concerning optics.

Mitchell wonders of movie-watching habits of today had an impact. Cheaper-by-comparison streaming services have made new-release movies more accessible for viewing in the comfort of home.

For a period prior to 2004, local movie-buffs had to travel outside of the region to watch the newest Hollywood flick but, 20 years ago, the seven-screen site opened at the former Sobeys grocery store under the Empire Theatres banner. The supermarket, meanwhile, moved to its current location, nearby at the South Shore Centre mall.

In 2013, Cineplex re-branded the location after acquiring about two dozen Empire Theatres cinemas in Atlantic Canada from the Pictou County-based Empire Company.

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