Kensington’s historic Plaza Theater is set to reopen after renovations

The iconic independent cinema in Kensington known as the Plaza Theater will finally reopen to the public on Friday after a long hiatus caused by the pandemic.

Plaza was established more than 75 years ago. In September 2020, the historic theater was leased, its future uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic thinned out across the globe.

This break will come to an end with the newly renovated space welcoming Calgarians back to the movies.

“It was really great to be able to do that,” said Fatima Dobrowolski, the new long-term tenant. “We’ve had unprecedented support from the local community, from neighbors. Everyone seems to love Plaza and seems to be rooted in us.”

This seating area is part of a new cocktail bar inspired by Dobrowolski’s West African heritage. (Ose Irete / CBC)

As a longtime lover of the Plaza, Dobrowolski said she wanted the renovations to focus on the experience of getting into the cinema.

This means that the new Plaza has been renovated to function as a kind of “community hub” – complete with an all-day café and bar.

“That way, patrons can show up, gather a little earlier, get a drink, get food from the cafe or the food cart,” Dobrowolski said. “They are able to take their food and drink into the theater itself, and then they have a place to download and talk about what you just saw.”

A chef works in a food truck outside the theater. The plan is to have a rotating cast of local chefs operate from the food truck. (Ose Irete / CBC)

When it comes to renovations of the screening room itself, Dobrowolski said plans are still underway – but renovation of the building and concession area was the first order.

“Our budget would not allow it at once,” Dobrowolski said.

The Plaza Theater reopens to the public on Friday after a lengthy renovation process. (Ose Irete / CBC)

It is important for Dobrowolski that Calgarians returning to the Plaza still feel a sense of familiarity.

“We’ve come across people who said this was the first place they saw a movie. Some people got married here,” Dobrowolski said.

“We love its historic status in the community, and we hope with these upgrades that it will make the Plaza survive and people can continue to build memories here, as they did before.”

The newly designed interior features portraits and innovative movie posters created by local artists. (Ose Irete / CBC)

Kelly Mandeville, general manager of the Plaza, said that when she graduated from school, the theater was the first place she ever showed a film she had worked on.

“That was kind of what attracted me to the space. I had a chance to work on something that I was invested in and that I wanted to save, not for myself, but for everyone I know,” she said. .

A food truck will be located permanently outside with a rotating seating area for local restaurateurs.

The Plaza starts its reopening Friday night with a screening of Belfast and Dune.

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