Rahim Manji says he’s doing everything in his power to get movie-goers to return to the theatre he operates in Newton.
“Maybe lowering the price to this will be an incentive to try us out and see the changes we have made to make it safe for everyone,” said Manji, who runs Hollywood 3 Cinemas at 7125 138th Ave.
Special pricing for the week of Oct. 9 to 15 offers daily admission of $2.50 per person, or just $1 on the Tuesday that week (Oct. 13).
Movies for the week include two different Harry Potter titles, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Beetlejuice, Jumanji: The Next Level and Sonic the Hedgehog (parts of which were filmed in Surrey).
In June, the Manji family-operated Hollywood 3 Cinemas chain reopened theatres in Newton, South Surrey and two other B.C. cities, after a two-month shutdown due to COVID-19. The chain includes the Hollywood 3 in Newton, the Caprice in South Surrey, the Caprice Duncan and the Hollywood 3 Pitt Meadows. The company’s Rialto White Rock theatre, located on the 1700-block of 152nd Street in South Surrey, did not reopen in June.
Last week, Manji announced that the Rialto will close its doors for good – not due to COVID-19, but rather what Manji calls an “unreasonable” request from the landlord when it came time to renegotiate the rent.
Manji said he did everything in his power to keep the twin-cinemas alive, but the company that owns the land wouldn’t accept anything less than a 200 per cent-plus rent increase.
The company that purchased the property about two years ago, Bowen Enterprise Corporation, doesn’t have an online presence or phone number, but records show it was incorporated in B.C. in 2016.
Manji says his landlord only responds to his requests to negotiate through the company’s lawyer.
“And they won’t even call me. I never talked to the landlords. They just send emails and that’s it. And every email was like pay this or get out.”
Manji corrected himself, adding that he met the landlords one time, when they visited the property with an interpreter. “We met once when they took over and it was because there was an argument where they wanted to take our janitor room away from me … Nevertheless, they took it away, but that was the only reason they came for a site visit. Since then, nothing,” he said. “No contact, no phone calls, multiple times me asking them to call me, nothing.”
Manji said he was in lease negotiations before the coronavirus hit. But even with COVID-19 closing the cinema, Manji said his landlord showed little wiggle room. “They wanted over 200 per cent more on rent. It’s a small community theatre, we can’t do that,” he said.
with files from Aaron Hinks, Black Press Media