A new movie theatre capable of drawing hundreds of people each night has been confirmed for a vacant lot in downtown North Battleford.
The city announced Tuesday Magic Lantern Theatres (MLT) has purchased the parcel of land across Railway Avenue from the courthouse; the lot was recently sold for a commercial development.
Bob Evans, director of development for Edmonton-based MLT, said there are plans to build a five-screen movie theatre with the latest in sound, seating and digital projection technology.
“It’ll be anything you see in Saskatoon, Calgary, or Edmonton; it’ll be right here in North Battleford,” Evans said.
He added 3D is being considered, and would be simple to add. He expects the complex to be open within a year, adding construction would take nine to 10 months depending on the weather.
“We want to be a part of the community and I think that’s going to help bring some life downtown for everybody, including us,” Evans said.
North Battleford Mayor Ian Hamilton smiled as he discussed prospects for the entire downtown.
“We think that now, this is our entertainment hub. Now the complementary services may very well follow,” Hamilton said. “We’re very confident that they will. But until that happens, we’ve got a little ways to go before we close some more deals.”
The city’s director of economic development, Jennifer Niesink, is reportedly working on bringing more businesses to the area.
Hamilton said getting more people downtown is key to its revitalization.
“There are as many as 690 seats in these five theatres. So that’s a lot of density, a lot of people,” he said. “This is not their first theatre. They’ve done their research, they’ve done their homework, and they know we can sustain this and make this a very profitable investment for them.”
Hamilton said MLT was initially concerned about whether the city was large enough, until it looked at the greater region.
Hamilton also credited the recently-adopted Official Community Plan for ensuring the new theatres would be built downtown.
Lisa Kissick, executive director of the North Battleford Business Improvement District, expects a positive impact.
“We’ve been waiting for a big development for downtown for a few years. And to see a space like this, that’s previously been vacant for a couple of decades, to have something like this that’s so needed in our community is so valuable,” she said.
What wasn’t clear was the future of the existing Capitol Theatre. Hamilton said M.L.T. and Dynasty Theatres, owners of the two-screen Capitol, are in talks; however, he declined to elaborate.
Dynasty Theatres did not wish to speak when contacted about the story.