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Getting new films is a struggle for Red Deer’s Carnival Cinemas and other indie theatres

Sometimes movies go to streaming services first
Independent theatres, such as Red Deer’s Carnival Cinemas, are struggling to get new films to screen and with lingering effects of the pandemic. (Advocate file photo/)

Lingering effects of the pandemic and the inability to screen new movies is prompting a plan to move Carnival Cinemas to a new Red Deer location, says owner Bill Ramji.

Ramji is staying in the movie screening business but is putting the Carnival Cinemas’s building on the market because he feels occupying a property that’s a “huge asset” doesn’t make business sense at a time when all independent theatres are struggling to get films.

Theatres such as Carnival Cinemas, have always had to wait until large chains, mainly Cineplex, are done with studio releases before they can show them.

But Ramji and other independent theatre owners now aren’t getting films for months and months after their release. Sometimes they don’t get movies until they are already available on streaming services, including on-demand platforms. As a result, many people are just watching these films at home.

Hollywood also hasn’t fully geared up big-screen productions, so there are less new movies available. Popular films, such as Top Gun: Maverick are still showing in Cineplex theatres, including the Galaxy — despite being released last May.


- Carnival Cinemas building for sale

“It’s been playing there 22 weeks and it’s still making money. It’s unprecedented,” said Ramji.

The revenue decline for independent theatre revenues has been exacerbated by lingering effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, with some people not yet comfortable in gatherings.

Ramji definitely believes there’s a future for Carnival Cinemas, which has operated in Red Deer for 25 years, only he said it will be in a different space.

The property Carnival Cinemas sits on is a prime location, close to Capstone, the city’s downtown and hospital. He feels this building and land are now being under-used to accommodate a single-use, destination business that could really be located anywhere in the city.

“People will follow us,” predicted Ramji, who noted Carnival Cinemas is the only movie theatre operating directly in Red Deer. Galaxy Cinemas, owned by Cineplex, is located just south of the city in Red Deer County.

He’s looking to lease within Red Deer and is considering various options in Clearview Market, north and south parts of the city and existing malls.

But Ramji has to sell the building he owns off Taylor Drive before moving since he anticipates having to make some leaseholder improvements at a new location.

He confirmed there’s been some interest in this property, but no offers yet. With ample parking, he can envision the building as a multi-use complex in future, perhaps holding medical suites, insurance or other offices, or even a restaurant or grocery store.

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