Photo Credit: Hayley Whelan
The Mount Pearl Theatre, which resided in Mount Pearl Square (more commonly referred to as Sobeys Square) on Topsail Road has permanently closed as of June 1st, 2021. The theatres’ story began in 1981 when the Sobeys Square mall opened for business. In the 80s, the Mount Pearl Theatre could be found in the company of a go-kart track and regular visits from Thomas Amusements. Originally, the Mount Pearl Square mall was home to Sobeys and Zellers stores, which contributed in a large part to the mall thoroughfare. Forty years later, the only remaining staple in the mall is the Mount Pearl Theatre, which has closed for good, ending the chapter of the Mount Pearl Square mall as any of us knew it. In place of clothing stores and restaurants now reside a massage clinic, a Bell store, a hearing aid health centre, a travel clinic and a solitary Robin’s Donuts franchise.
Although my own experiences with the Mount Pearl Theatre have been limited to a showing of the first Avengers movie and Sponge Out Of Water, I still feel a strange sadness at the passing of the physical theatre into a vague memory. I imagine driving past Mount Pearl Square with my future children in the backseat and saying “Look kids, there used to be a theatre there.” It’s a testament to the good memories I’ve had there that melancholy and nostalgia overwhelm me at the thought of the theatre being closed.
The Mount Pearl Theatre was known for hosting limited showings of niche and nostalgic movies that the Avalon Mall Theatre didn’t offer. It was these special events that drew in a crowd. For a long time, the Mount Pearl Theatre hasn’t had the benefit of being in a crowded mall, where shoppers could browse the showtimes and spontaneously decide to see a movie. Special showings like the one I attended for the 40th-anniversary re-release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian in the spring of 2019 served as a way to draw people in. Aside from the convenience of what were sometimes more opportune showtimes, the Mount Pearl Theatre really could never compete with the Avalon Mall Theatre when it came to new releases. The extended closures of theatres in Newfoundland throughout 2020, as well as the necessity of socially distanced seating ultimately led to the theatres’ downfall.
The last time that I was at the Mount Pearl Theatres was thankfully not too long ago. Although we were given no warning that the theatre was going to close, I am grateful that I got to see a movie there one last time. My final movie at the Mount Pearl Theatre was a special showing of the Demon Slayer: Mugen Train movie in April of 2021. In retrospect, the Mount Pearl Theatre was on its last legs then and already crawling to the finish line. The final showing I was able to see seemed like a last hurrah for the theatre. Even the limited showing was not able to draw many people from their homes and into the frigid theatres at Mount Pearl Square. The socially distanced seating arrangement made for a sparse and distant crowd. My companions and I shivered our way through the film in one of the front rows, our overpriced popcorn held carefully in our laps as if they were kernels of gold instead of corn. Our masks hung at our throats and our necks were crooked at an uncomfortable obtuse angle toward the screen. Anxious theatre employees paced the front of the theatre regularly, staring intently at us with clipboards in hand – making sure that none of us was violating COVID-19 restrictions.
Since this experience, I have been to a showing at the much warmer, much less sterile Avalon Mall Theatre. The stark difference between the two theatres leaves me unsurprised that the Mount Pearl Theatre was the one to close. Although its closing marks a sad end for the potential of Mount Pearl Square and draws nostalgic memories from our hearts, the closure was a long time coming. Our beloved theatre has taken its last breath nuzzled comfortably in our arms and close to our hearts. We thank all past Mount Pearl Theatre staff for contributing to our pleasant memories.