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Carnival Cinemas owner purchases Park Plaza theatre

Red Deer’s former Park Plaza Theatre building will survive — but it has screened its last movie.

The 5214 47th Ave. building has been purchased by Carnival Cinemas Corp., which operates Carnival Cinemas at 5402 47th St. Carnival owner Bill Ramji said resumption of the Park Plaza’s previous business is not an option.

“This will never operate again as a theatre. That’s a given.”

Instead, Ramji is considering several alternate uses, including as office space or a seniors residence.

“Personally, I would like a nice medical clinic there.”

He added that he’s also been approached by groups interested in buying the building.

Ramji said some engineering and feasibility studies have been completed, and he hopes to make a decision within the next few months. Regardless of its eventual use, he insists that the structure will not be torn down.

“It will be retrofitted,” he said, pointing out that engineering reports have confirmed the building is sound.

It’s also in a prime location near the city’s downtown core, and has the potential for 28 to 60 indoor parking stalls to be developed inside, he said.

Park Plaza Theatre closed in January after more than 40 years of operation. It was owned by Cineplex Entertainment, which operates Galaxy Cinemas Red Deer in Gasoline Alley.

The theatre first opened in 1968. It was built by Gordon Purnell and his family, who had an association with Famous Players Ltd.

Michelle Bakke-Purnell, Gordon’s daughter-in-law, said four generations of Purnells have worked in the theatre business. The family at one time owned and operated 11 separate theatres, including the Capitol, Crescent and Paramount theatres in Red Deer, and the local 2-11 and 40th Avenue drive-ins.

Bakke-Purnell said their properties had a reputation for being well-run and carefully maintained.

Park Plaza Theatre underwent a number of expansions over the years, with Famous Players buying out the Purnells’ interest in 1988.

Another longtime Red Deer theatre, Uptown Cinema Centre, closed in 2008. It’s currently being marketed for sale or lease.

Ramji said Carnival Cinemas, which shows previously released movies, experienced a drop in business after Galaxy opened. But attendance improved with the closure of the Uptown and Park Plaza theatres.

“There is a difference, no question about it,” he said.

Carnival also recently underwent more than $300,000 in upgrading work, including extensive renovations to its lobby, said Ramji. That’s also helped increase the theatre’s appeal to patrons.

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