Monday, July 23, 2012

Sean Kelly

The West-End Cinema Feud and the Humber Cinema's Fall from Grace

Last week I wrote about the apparent reclosing (and subsequent reopening) of the Humber Cinema.  I didn't really know what to think at the time.  I just knew that the Humber was still open.

Well, some more news has since surfaced and it is almost the type of story that you only see in the movies.

Basically what happened was this: The Humber Cinema's landlord Claude Bitton essentially hijacked the cinema from manager Rui Pereira and has decided to operate the theatre himself.

There's a major blame game from both sides involving the Humber Cinema.  On the old Humber Cinema Facebook page and Twitter, Rui Pereira states that Claude Bitton owned the Humber (and most of the surrounding businesses) for the last decade.  It was only after Pereira, who successfully reopened the Kingsway a few years earlier, took management and refurbished the cinema from the ground up that Bitton took notice.

Since Pereira plans on taking down the old Humber Page, here are the posts he made:

The Humber Cinema is no longer operated by the Kingsway Theatre - the owner(landlord) - Claude Bitton - of the Humber has hijacked our business and locked us out of the building.
The Humber Cinema was renovated by the Kingsway Theatre and paid for by our corporation.
Claude Bitton has owned the property since 2002 and did nothing with it until our company renovated the Humber starting 2010. Just look down the street at the petrified variety store at the corner for his business development skills.
I personally am not responsible for the rebirth of the Humber Cinema - it was the Kingsway Theatre - as an entity - as an active business that made the Humber possible. The Humber Cinema through the Kingsway - as a living business - as a symbol of going to the show and enjoying the experience of the motion in the 'together' of an audience.
What makes it all the more disgusting - what Claude Bitton did - is that he has betrayed the trust that people afforded to the Kingsway and Humber Cinemas. The positive energy of idealism has been used by Claude Bitton for his own greed and self serving narcissism.

'When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.'
Friedrich Nietzsche

On the other side of the coin, Claude Bitton takes a much more hostile stance in this feud and says that Pereira was locked out of Humber due to thousands of dollars of unpaid rent and back bills.  On the new Humber Cinemas Facebook page operated by Bitton, posts are made saying that all other stories about the matter are one-sided and that the truth is that "a former employee [presumably Pereira] was found to be committing all sorts of illegal actions" and that "once caught stealing, said employee went on to perpetuate a fraud in which he claimed that the Humber was closed, among other lies."

Now for my opinion: I have to say that I have to side with Rui Pereira in this feud.  Here you have an entrepreneur, who set out to reopen a cinema that was not only closed for 8 years, but in a major dilapidated state.  Pereira spent I don't know how many thousands to essentially rebuild the Humber Cinema from the ground up and, when I went to see films there this summer, it was looking quite good.  How am I expected to sympathize with an opportunistic landlord, who decided one day that the bills weren't being paid fast enough and who figured that he could run the theatre better than the guy, who worked really hard to restore the theatre.

The effects of this coup are already starting to be felt.  While the Humber was continuing to run with the films it was playing when Pereira was forced out, apparently Warner Bros refused to give them the print for The Dark Knight Rises last weekend (which is definitely a blow).  Also, the article linked above states that Pereira is planning to take legal action to reclaim the theatre equipment that he claims is his property.

While, I'll probably still closely observe this story, I'll have to sadly say that the Humber Cinema has lost me as a patron.  I don't really care who is right or wrong in this feud, I just believe that the Humber under Claude Bitton has lost its integrity and I predict that the theatre will probably close down by the end of the year.

It's a real shame.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).