OBITUARY: Sayonara Westmount, an oasis of good movie seating

Cover of "Rocky III"

Cover of Rocky III

While you were sitting at home watching the Oscars on TV and they were doing that little montage featuring all the movie types whose work we will no longer be able to enjoy because they shuffled off this mortal coil sometime in the last year — complete with Celine Dion vocals —  Westmount Centre Cinemas wasn’t mentioned.

But won’t you please shed a tear for them all the same? They closed down after the credits rolled on their late features last night, and that’s a shame.

Now, it’s best not to get too attached to generic places like movieplexes because there’s not actually all that much about the places that make them special. Of course they hold memories for anyone who likes to go to movies, because people who like to go to movies usually like to go for the stories they tell and the memories they create.

For example, there’s the time I went downtown after school one day in junior high and saw Rocky III at the Capitol Square. Clubber Lang, man. Wow, that guy was one bad dude, but let’s be honest, I could have figured that out in about any theatre that was showing Rocky III at the time. If there was a more direct bus from Sherwood Park, it could have even been Westmount.

I’m not going to miss it due to the sheer quality of the theatre. The last time I was there, they had closed the little box office at the bottom of the escalator and you had to queue up at the concession stand to both by your tickets and your snacks. Not ideal.

And once you were in, you were talking about four theatres of roughly the same size, with at least one of them with the main aisle running straight down the centre of the place where there really should have been seats. Speaking of seats, many of them sagged, and many more had a feel about them like they had functioned as napkins for a few too many licorice-oiled/greasy popcorn fingers. But was the popcorn exceptional in some way? The staff? The projection? Uh, no.

Here’s what the deal was with Westmount. One time, a friend and I figured we were going to go and see 300 on its opening weekend. We went to WEM and it was stupid busy, filled right up to the dragon hovering around the ceiling. We found we could get tickets for Tuesday, which wasn’t doing us much good on Saturday. But what could we do?

I had a brainwave. “Let’s get outta here,” I said to my friend.

“And go where?” he asked.

“Let’s try Westmount. It’s not too far from here, and I have a feeling it’ll work out better.”

So we went to Westmount, and how do you think we did? There was practically nobody there! We walked right in and practically had the run of the place!

This became a common practice. No movie was so big as to make Westmount a no-go. Even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a piece of cake.

The one thing we worried about, though, was how long we could count on having a theatre that was so reliably empty and still available to us. And now the penny has finally dropped on Westmount Centre Cinemas. They’re done for. I would like to thank everyone who so consistently ignored them for as long as they did, but I sure do wish now that a few more hadn’t. I’m crying now. Fin.

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