Cinéma du Parc is a small theatre, tucked away in the lower levels of the Galeries du Parc mall, but once in the shopping complex it is hard to miss. Its movie posters decorate the mall swalls and the delicious smell of popcorn often wafts its way up to shoppers. Upon entry, one is immediately pleased by the look of the cozy theatre, and at a glance it seems as if the establishment is simply a cute cinema that showcases independent films.
Jean-Francois Lamarche acts as the assistant-director general and director of programming at Cinema du Parc. Lamarche elaborated on the history of the theatre, and its community-oriented mission.
“The base of our philosophy and our mission [is that] we are a social economy. [We’re] really about giving back to the community and to our employees,” explained Lamarche.
Beyond simply showcasing newly released films, Cinema du Parc offers opportunities for community involvement in the form of festivals and educational documentary screenings.
The theatre was constructed at the same time as Galeries du Parc in 1977. According to Lamarche, the theatre drew in customers for a very different reason back then.
“It was officially the first multiplex [in Montreal]. Before that, the theatres were big halls with a thousand seats, [and Cinéma du Parc] was the first one with three screens,” Lamarche said. “Right now, it’s the smallest theatre in [Montreal].”
Over the years, the ownership and name of the theatre changed multiple times. Originally named Cinema La Cité, the name was changed to Cinéma du Parc in the 1990s.
Today, the theatre is non-profit and showcases films from a wide variety of genres and countries. The theatre also holds special events and festivals—such as the International Children’s Film Festival, which aims to get future filmmakers interested in the industry.
The theatre mostly shows independent films—films that are produced outside of the major film studio system and produced and distributed by independent entertainment agencies.
Of the many kinds of films shown at Cinéma du Parc, the most popular are still the bigger American productions.
“What works the [best] is the big independent American titles […] for example, right now we have La La Land, Moonlight, [and] Manchester by the Sea,” Lamarche said.
Even so, the theatre has a unique approach in showcasing these kinds of films, in that it plays movies in the language they were originally filmed in, in this case English, with French subtitles.
“The difference [between us and the] other multiplexes in Montreal showing [these kinds of films] is we have French subtitles, so we can reach out to both the English community, with the fact that the film is in its original language, and [to] the French, with French subtitles,” explained Lamarche.
Cinéma du Parc does this intentionally to respect and maintain the original film. Other films in other languages are also treated this way, and are shown in the original language, with either English or French subtitles.
On top of maintaining the originality of each film, Cinéma du Parc’s approach to film screening goes beyond the film itself. The theatre offers a more hands-on, educational experience, especially in screening documentaries.
“We try to show a lot of documentaries on subjects that matter to us, and we do a lot of Q&A’s with [directors], or if we don’t have the director, sometimes we get a professional [who is knowledgable on] the subject […] do Q&A’s on certain nights,” said Lamarche.
The theatre often participates in festivals connected to cultural communities within Montreal. “If we have a Turkish film, we are going to reach out to the Turkish community,” Lamarche said, “[and] they can come and be welcome.”
Cinéma du Parc provides an environment that enhances the theatre experience, creating a place where moviegoers can congregate to enjoy and discuss films with other cinephiles.
“People can go out, and they can meet, and talk together, and we have our employees [that] know the films and they can talk to you about [them],” Lamarche said.
In the future, the theatre aims to cater to the nightlife crowd, potentially including a small restaurant and a liquor licence so that moviegoers can enjoy a good beer with the show.
Cinéma du Parc is undoubtedly a special place in the Montreal cinematic community, and through its endeavors in food and entertainment events the theatre will continue to innovate and enhance its film-viewing experience in the years to come.
Cinéma du Parc offers a youth price of $11 for ages 18-25. On “Cheap Tuesdays” general admission is $10.