It’s Imperial, but is it the next big thing?
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
In the past couple years, many independent theatres and venues in Vancouver have been closing their doors. Many of these closures come from a lack of affordability; it’s unfortunate that so many great venues in Vancouver have difficulty staying afloat. With that said, there’s always a glimmer of hope, and for the Imperial, that glimmer is from a shiny, golden tiger. We spoke with Scott Emslie, one of the core team members of the new and improved Imperial, about what changes were necessary to make the venue Vancouver’s newest hotspot.
The Imperial first opened its doors as the Golden Harvest in the ‘70s, where it became a popular place to view kung fu and Chinese language movies. In 2007, the building received a $2.5-million renovation that served as a start in updating the venue, then known as District 319. Now, having just completed another major renovation, the Imperial has successfully combined its Asian theatre roots with a brand new concert hall and sound system.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is make sure the venue is very versatile,” begins Emslie. “We do want to have an upscale feel, but not necessarily formal, and…we put a lot of work into [the Imperial], and it’s a beautiful venue. District 319 was known for film screenings and corporate events, and we’re expanding and we’re doing a lot more live music…and some [electronic dance music] shows. We’re opening up the venue to a wider range of events.”
With a lot of space now available, Imperial is intended as a multi-purpose venue. Concerts are a big focus, but the venue also serves as a movie theatre.
“We definitely hope to be doing some [film] premieres,” Emslie adds, “and then some private screenings as well. Our capacity is 370, so it’s basically made for more intimate screenings or private events as far as film goes. I know there’s a lot of film festivals in Vancouver and a couple of the theatres have closed down recently, so we’re definitely looking to get involved.”
And in terms of concerts, along with touring bands:
“[We’re] going to focus on local bands that are up-and-coming. The live element to our venue is brand new, and so we’re trying to feature that over the next month or so. What we’re planning on doing is a month-long series every Friday with live local bands [called Live Fridays].”
Emslie also pointed out that the venue runs on a liquor license. In recent years, BC’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch has proved particularly difficult with their liquor license restrictions on independent venues. With that in mind, Emslie remains optimistic.
“I know it’s definitely difficult to get a liquor license in this province. We have the liquor license in place, and it’s all about making sure we’re following all the rules…and for us it’s always a priority to make sure that our venue is controlled and our liquor service is controlled. I know if we’re following all the rules, then the liquor branch won’t have any issues with the venue.”
Finally, Emslie spoke towards the venue’s relationship with Intersections, a charity that creates media-related opportunities for at-risk kids and teens.
“We’re doing a few of our fundraisers for [Intersections], so that all of the money that comes in for coat check is going to Intersections, and then we’re also going to do a fundraiser for them later in the year, where the proceeds from the entire event will go back to them.”
Between the possibility of being a new film festival theatre, receiving an intense technical upgrade to their sound system, and getting involved with a local charity, the Imperial is looking like it could very well be the next big thing. The Imperial is a short bus ride away from the Main Street SkyTrain station, so take some time to support one of Vancouver’s newest local venues.