The Cinémas Laurentiens building in Grenville has sold, and the future of the building as a cinéma is still unknown.
After more than a year on the market, ReMax representative Mario Cyr announced on August 31 that the building on rue Principale had been sold. For Cyr, the sale of the longtime cinéma was no ordinary transaction. He shared on Facebook how he remembered going there as a child, later with his first girlfriend, and then taking his own children.
Cinémas Laurentiens will remain open at least until September 30. On October 1, the new owner takes possession of the building.
“It’s hard, we cannot tell our customers,” said Danielle Lacasse, who has owned the cinema with her husband Yvon Myner for 51 years.
According to Lacasse, the new owner is from Lavaltrie, east of Montreal and may be considering apartments or condominiums for the site. However, she is leaving the option open for the new owner to continue to operate the cinéma and is eager to find out what their plans are.
“I’m going to give him names of people he can contact.”
Lacasse and Myner have been trying to sell Cinémas Laurentiens and retire for more than a year. They had sold the building twice, but the COVID-19 pandemic and financial issues with purchasers prevented the sale from being finalized. A buyer from Montreal withdrew after concerns about owning a cinéma when the industry was hurt by pandemic-related restrictions, and the second buyer was barred from continuing the purchase due to financing and legal problems. Lacasse and Myner had moved out of their apartment in the cinéma building both times, but returned to continue the business as long as the building remained unsold and pandemic restrictions allowed them to open.
“We sold finally,” said a relieved Lacasse.
A major difficulty for sellers is that prospective buyers have not been interested in owning businesses – such as cinémas – that may have been closed or had restricted operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Houses are selling like crazy, but businesses are not,” Lacasse noted.
The pandemic has also made the cinema business more challenging, due to restricted audience capacities, and because movie studios have been issuing new films through streaming services and television, so people can watch them at home instead.
“They’re controlling the cinéma business,” said Myner.
Cinémas Laurentiens reopened on July 15 after months of closures and restricted access due to checkpoints at the provincial boundary. The cinema is the only movie theatre in the area. If it closes, movie fans will have to travel to Ottawa-Gatineau, or the Montreal area to see a flick. Myner estimated Cinémas Laurentiens is presently operating at 35 per cent of its pre-pandemic level.
Lacasse and Myner are hoping to move into a new condominium in June 2022. They are still looking for a place to live once the building is no longer theirs and are also hoping to do some travelling.
“We’re ready for retirement,” said Lacasse.