Last night at the launch of SCENE, Cineplex and Scotiabank’s new reward point program, most buzz overheard by Torontoist was about the marquee outside. What was once The Paramount is now the Scotiabank Theatre.
Following the lead of our new opera house and almost every arena in professional sports, Cineplex Entertainment has entered into a five-year deal with Scotiabank to rebrand theatres in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Some attendees at last night’s soirée buzzed with concern at a corporate branding trend that continues to encroach upon significant and historic sites, while others pointed out that the former Paramount has always been tied to a brand.
Gone are the familiar Paramount script and bold exterior signage, replaced with temporary signage more appropriate for the boards at a hockey arena. Even the antique bronze railing transplanted from New York’s historic Paramount Theater (shuttered in 1964) has been removed from the area above the escalators. Cineplex currently has a 3-D marquee in the works that is somewhat similar to the recently dismantled one.
Cineplex Entertainment is now the largest motion picture exhibitor in the country, involved with 1,296 screens across Canada under six major brands: Cineplex Odeon, Famous Players and Galaxy Cinemas, with sub-brands Silver City, Coliseum and Colossus. Sixty million movie tickets are sold at their facilities annually. Scotiabank boasts about twelve million customers and $379 billion in assets. Jeez.
The Cineplex-Scotiabank joint venture aims to be more than a simple branding strategy. Customers sign up online for the free SCENE card, which allows 10% discounts at the concession stand and points toward free movies or food combos (about every tenth movie when flashing the card). Scotiabank is also promoting a SCENE debit card that earns points for general everyday banking.
With the projected-2008 arrival of the 24-screen flagship AMC Theatre in the Metropolis complex at Dundas Square, Cineplex is positioning itself to have some serious downtown competition. The chain recently launched event programming like high-definition hockey games and a live opera event from the Met in New York projected onto some of their screens. Accroding to CEO Ellis Jacob, they also aren’t ruling-out future DVD retail via their website.
When constructed, the former Paramount was the first movie house to be built downtown in fourteen years. It has thirteen screens, an IMAX auditorium, seats 3,370 moviegoers and remains one of North America’s largest-grossing theatres. Its most iconic feature is also one of its most reviled: the multicoloured “Rubik’s Cube” that looms almost twenty metres above John and Richmond.
Toronto has a strong history with Cineplex, which first opened at the Eaton Centre in 1979. At the time, the 18-screen complex was the most ambitious and largest movie complex in the world, by screen count; a bold move considering that Cineplex was originally locked-out of first-run flicks by the major distributors of the time. Located where clothing retailer H&M stands now, the facility’s tiny screens, aging sound systems and decrepit interior couldn’t compete with the newly-opened megaplexes, and it was closed for good in March of 2001.
Though Cineplex lost the rights to the Paramount name (owned by Viacom) following the acquisition of Famous Players, it will undoubtedly still be known as the Paramount for some time, just as “SkyDome” remains in the popular vernacular. “Let’s see what’s playing at the Scotiabank,” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Photos by Marc Lostracco. Rendering of new sign from Cineplex Entertainment.