Clova Cinema at the crossroads

With a buyer in the wings, Cloverdale's iconic single screen sets the stage for its next act.

The Clova Cinema in downtown Cloverdale opened in 1947. It's among the last remaining single screen cinemas in the Lower Mainland and has not yet converted to a digital projection system.

A deal is in motion that would see the Clova Cinema sold and eventually restored to its original look, changing the face of downtown Cloverdale.

A buyer, CrossRidge Church, is in the wings, mulling over an offer to buy the Clova Cinema building, an iconic heritage landmark at 5731 176 Street.

The Clova is still operating as a movie theatre, but business owner Craig Burghardt said he so far hasn’t been able to work out another long-term lease with the property’s current owner, making it challenging to consider going ahead with an expensive digital upgrade as the sun sets on the 35-mm film industry.

A real estate agent involved in the deal recently met with members of the Cloverdale Improvement Association for an update and consultation.

The Art Deco-style theatre, which opened in 1947, is listed on the city’s heritage register, and as recently as last week, details were being worked out on how a buyer would preserve and restore the building.

“We’ve had some discussions on how to preserve the building,” said Jean Lamontagne, general manager of planning and development with the City of Surrey. “We feel very positive with the sale and that this will happen.”

Cloverdale BIA executive director Paul Orazietti said the deal hinges on whether or not the church will agree to restore and preserve the heritage value of the building, a condition of sale that could translate into costly repairs.

“Our business community is supportive,” Orazietti added. “We would like to preserve the structure. If there is a group that could breathe new life into it, it’s a lot better than in the past, and letting it fall into decay.”

The pride of Main Street Cloverdale stood empty for several years in the 1980s, when Odeon opted to sell the theatre rather than convert it into multiple screens. It re-opened as the Clova Cinema in 1992, and the family-owned business has been run by Burghardt since 1996.

CrossRidge Church has been renting the theatre on Sunday mornings for church services. It also sublets classroom space across the street at the Cloverdale Learning Centre, and rents the small government office building at 17674 58 Avenue, and for now isn’t interested in using the theatre except on Sundays, according to Orazietti.

“The group is ideally suited to it,” he said, noting the church is open to allowing community access to the Clova as a venue. “They seem to be the perfect fit.”

In addition to preserving heritage aspects of the building, the city is asking the potential buyers to provide for a specific number of parking spaces, he said.

One change would involve the building’s colours, which would revert from burgundy, black and gold to its original, subdued hues.

The current colour scheme is a face lift done in the late 1990s during the Smallville era, when the cinema was used as a location for the TV production, playing the role of The Talon in Superman’s hometown.

Contacted this week, Burghardt was hopeful that a change in ownership would spell the end of his five-year wait in limbo as tenant.

Burghardt was expecting to meet with representatives from the church on Wednesday, after the Reporter’s press time.

“My intention is to go ahead,” he said. “This all hinges on me getting a lease.”

The Clova has been paying rent on a month-by-month basis for the past five years, and the building has been on the market for four of those.

“I’ve been operating on hope,” he said. “What I need is a lease – from somebody.”

Regardless of the outcome of the meeting, this Friday, the Clova presents Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

“My strategy has been to ‘open’ movies because they give you film,” he said, explaining it’s increasingly difficult to track down celluloid versions of first-run movies. “It’s been nearly impossible to do double bills.”

 

See also:

Clova Cinema wrestles with film vs. digital

A Cloverdale classic turns 65,

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