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Montreal’s Empress Theatre — Canada’s only surviving Egyptian-style theatre — is poised to become an independent cinema in a building that could also house a micro-brewery along with commercial offices.

The Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough Wednesday night voted its approval of the “Cinema V” proposal tendered by a non-profit group and recently recommended by an evaluation committee.


“Along with respecting the original vocation of the building, this project assures the cultural dynamism of Notre Dame de Grâce, a hotbed of artistic expression,” borough mayor Michael Applebaum said in a statement.


The project’s financial projections are also “realistic and viable,” he said.


The project to revamp the building at 5560 Sherbrooke St. W. — also known as the former Cinema V — is pegged to cost $12 million.


Central to the plan are four state-of-the-art screening rooms that will showcase art films, documentaries and put the accent of English language works as well as French. Cultural communities are also to be included in the lineup.


No funding will come from the city, although project backers intend to appeal to the provincial and federal governments for funding.


The non-proft group backing the project has already lined up a $4.7-million loan from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and a letter of support from Héritage Montréal, according to information available Wednesday evening.


About 20 per cent of the building will be turned over to commercial use, something intended to ensure the venture is self-sufficient.


Talks are said to be underway with a member of the McAuslan Brewery family to open a brewery in the building.


Cinéma V backers have until Dec. 31 to conclude an agreement with the city about the property and until Dec. 31, 2013, to line up full financial backing.


The building’s façade is to be kept and every effort undertaken to maintain key interior elements, according to information available Wednesday evening.


The Cinéma V project originated with Elaine Ethier, a long-time N.D.G. resident, who teamed up with Mario Fortin, a film-industry veteran who runs the independent Cinéma Beaubien operating successfully in Rosemont.


The evaluation committee had considered another proposal from the Empress Cultural Centre group.


The proposed $6-million “Empress Cultural Centre” would have seen a theatre space with venues for both live performances and film screenings along with a café/restaurant and rooftop garden. Other features included an institute for

analog (celluloid) film.


Sharon Leslie, of Empress Cultural Centre group, decried council support of the competing project in an interview before the vote.


“There has been no public input ... and no consultation” on the part of the jury or borough, she said.


In December 2011, the city of Montreal took back ownership of the former Cinema V from the Empress Cultural Centre, saying the group had failed to come up with a viable proposal for the site.


The cinema, built in 1927, was bought by the city in 1999. It has been unused and vacant for about 20 years.


When borough mayor Michael Applebaum called for proposals from non-proft groups for the building in January, he said the proposals had to focus on cultural vocation and to be financially self-supporting.


In June, the evaluation committee recommended that the borough approve the Cinéma N.D.G. plan. Council had the option of rejecting the recommendation.


Councillor Peter McQueen said Wednesday afternoon that he would vote against the committee recommendation.


He said that he would like to see the fate of the Empress reconsidered and the city to kick-in funding of $2-million to $5-million to ensure that the revamped building has a concert hall as well as a cinema.


“We can have both,” said McQueen, adding that N.D.G. is home to many musicians and artists.


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Nice to see that this landmark will be saved. I will for sure go check it out, when it is all renovated.

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I live nearby and everytime I see it, it makes me sad to see such nice architectural potential just abandoned like that... I'm glad to hear good news about it, I would definitely be a regular :P

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A condo project for Empress Theatre? Montreal city councillor says it should be considered

By Tim SargeantReporter  Global News

It sits on Sherbrooke Street like a ghostly reminder of a bygone era and while no decorations hang from it, the deteriorating Empress Theatre may be the scariest sight on Halloween night.

There have been several plans to gut and renovate the interior, restore the exterior and breathe some much-needed life back into this iconic building — but not a single proposal has materialized.

Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand argues the time may have come for the city to sell the historic site and convert it into condos.

That’s what happened with the historic Snowdon Theatre on Decarie Boulevard. It suffered a small fire and was eventually sold to a developer by the city and it is being renovated for a housing project.

Montreal has owned the Empress Theatre for 23 years. It’s been closed for 26 following a devastating fire in 1992.

The building currently has a municipal value of $1,169,700, according to Montreal’s most recent valuation role.

“If it doesn’t come out of something that is community based, the city should be looking at housing or something else on the site,” Rotrand told Global News.

The Empress Theatre opened in 1927. Its Egyptian insignia and intricate details made it the crown jewel of the neighbourhood for live performances.

While the fire destroyed the interior, the outside of the building has been left to decay.

“You kind of want to put your faith in the fact that the city is going to step in and take over and do something with that,” Emily McLean, who runs a yoga class next door, told Global News.

“But it’s a bit frustrating in that sense because nothing seems like is going to happen.”

There have been several proposals to renovate the Empress Theatre in recent years. The most recent idea came from Mk2 Film in the fall of 2017, but the cinema distribution company based in France pulled out this summer.

“Do we wait another five, 10, 15 years or do we do something different?” Rotrand said.

Neighbouring hair stylist Joseph Mathieu of Joe and Charlie Hair Salon would also like to see something done.

“Just really wish something would happen to it, you know? Something that would bring people to the area, you know, just something fun,” Mathieu told Global News.

City councillor Peter McQueen, who represents the NDG district, told Global News the city is working on plans and there maybe something to save the Empress Theatre in Montreal’s 2019 budget but he wouldn’t elaborate.

The budget is scheduled to be released Nov. 8.

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