In December of 2016, Westdale’s iconic movie theatre was put on the market. Opening in 1935, the 495 seat, 6630-square-foot, single-screen avenue was a staple of the Hamilton community.
At the time, Ward 1 councillor and longtime theatregoer Aidan Johnson had been working for over a year to designate the theatre as property of Cultural Heritage to help protect it under the Ontario Heritage Act.
“The cinema is an integral part of the original heritage landscape of Westdale Village. It is inseparable from Westdale itself. It needs to be protected,” said Johnson
The Westdale Cinema Group, a non-profit, was formed to purchase the theatre shortly after, and their offer was accepted in February. A group of individuals and organizations alike, they are continuing to find the donations needed to restore the theatre.
The planned renovations promise new washrooms, an expanded snack bar, new theatre seats, state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment, and an expanded stage to host theatre, music and lecture series.
Films remain a priority, but it is apparent that they wish to expand the functions of the area to make a multi-purpose venue.
“Through our Board of Directors, our goal is to create Hamilton’s premier cinema screening experience for art and independent films and a state-of-the-art exhibition space for music, readings, lecture, video streaming and public meetings,” said the group.
Despite these additions and changes, they also promise that the heritage and historic atmosphere of the theatre will remain intact with a restored 1935 façade, restored architectural detailing, a restored auditorium and the consistency of the front lobby snack bar and back lobby lounge.
While restoration of the theatre begins this month, the group still needs $1.5 million. They are accepting grants from all levels of government, but they need additional funds. Their method is a public fundraising campaign called, “Building Magic,” with reward levels similar to a Kickstarter with products and services from local companies and people featured.
The lowest starts at $19.35 with a custom designed pin by local designer Rachelle Letain. The mid levels include a special screening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the film’s producer, multiple options for limited-edition prints, the ability to name a seat and the ability to have your message on the marquee for a week. The maximum level is
$10 000, which offers the full theatre for the night with unlimited popcorn and soft drinks for all attendees.
They are also accepting volunteers if you would like to contribute with time instead of money.
“As we build the new Westdale, we want the tradition of presenting magic to continue — whether visiting the Westdale, for film, music, theatre, or to hear an author.”