The long wait is finally over for Penticton area movie lovers.
The new Landmark Cinemas 7 Penticton officially opens to the public tonight after two nights of preview galas.
Featuring stadium-style seating and digital projectors, the multi-million dollar theatre complex features seven theatre auditorium ranging in capacity from 300 seats to about 125.
The opening comes almost 56 years after the Pen-Mar Cinema opened its doors on Dec. 19, 1956.
Brian McIntosh, CEO for Calgary-based Landmark Cinemas of Canada, told those attending a VIP preview/ribbon cutting Wednesday evening that he appreciates the patience shown by South Okanagan residents.
"It has been a while getting the new cinema built here and no one has wanted it worse than Landmark Cinemas," he said. "The Pen-Mar has under-serviced your community for a long, long time."
McIntosh said Landmark bought the Pen-Mar in 1974 when it was a single screen theatre.
It first started looking at the Winnipeg Street and Westminster Avenue property in 2005, when the property was owned by Vicki and Eric Gerrits.
"The basic problem with the site was there were some (soil) contaminants that had to be dealt with," he said. "As we
That caused Landmark to consider locating the theatre in the proposed new shopping centre on the Penticton Indian Reserve in 2010. However, when that project was delayed, it opted last year to go downtown after the remediation of the former Liquidation World site.
McIntosh praised the efforts of city, economic development and Downtown Penticton Association officials for being a "bulldog" in urging Landmark to build its new cinema downtown.
The property is now owned by Churchill International Property Group. In addition to the theatre complex, two restaurant sites are also available for future development on the site.
Mayor Dan Ashton lauded Landmark for its patience and tenacity which led to the theatre opening. The property also qualifies for tax breaks under the city's new economic incentive zones.
Neil Campbell, Landmark's chief operating officer, said the cinema chain is proud to have been associated with Penticton for so long.
"This city really represents the type of family values and corporate commitment that we value as a company," he said. "We look forward to working with our customers and local businesses in order to continue to be a real part of the community landscape."
Each auditorium features a wall-to-wall screen, with 3D technology available in five of the seven auditoriums. Reserved seating is available for the entire theatre complex, including advance tickets purchased online.
Landmark Cinemas, the third largest motion picture exhibitor in Canada, operates 34 theatres with over 135 screens in 27 communities throughout the four western provinces and the Yukon.