Following community support, Princess Cinema to remain open until further notice

Photo by Emily Waitson

Following public outcry and community support for the Princess Original cinema in Waterloo, the theatre announced that it will not be closing its doors — for now.

The cinema, which had been open since John Tutt, owner and proprietor, purchased the space in 1985 — over 34 years — had received news on April 12, 2019, that its tenancy with the Huether Hotel would be cut short.

“It was a shock that we were going to be evicted … it was a real unusual time in April when we got that news: that a virtual reality business was going to go in there,” Tutt said.

“[I think] cultural spaces — in any city — people are attached to: they’re a rare thing. They take time to develop and that was why there was such a strong community outpouring from that news that we were going to have to close down.”

However, just a few weeks into the decision, the owners of the Huether told John and Wendy Tutt that they were reversing their decision to evict the Princess Original from the space in favor of alternate tenant opportunities.

“Probably about three weeks into that whole process of public outcry … when the hotel [told us about the eviction], we had to announce to the community that the theatre was closing … and when that announcement was made and people heard about what was going on, then this huge outcry came about — and [now] here we are, negotiating a [long-term] lease,” Tutt said.

“I guess what happened was the outpouring from people who had gone there for years … There’s been a ton of people who have had first dates, been part of packed entertainment screenings — so a lot of memories and affection for that little second-floor cinema space in the community.”

The decision, however, was a difficult one made by the Adlys family, owners of the Huether, rooted in financial difficulties, and changes to insurance and property taxes — a fact recognized by Tutt.

On April 20, 2019, the Huether Hotel posted an official statement regarding the events that transpired, to give their perspective towards the circumstances surrounding the eviction.

The main issue, according to both the Huether and the Princess, was a lack of a “renter’s lease”, which severely impacted the stability, reliability and accountability of the tenancy, from both a renter and landlord perspective.

“We’ve had a long-term relationship with the family that runs the hotel, and we didn’t have a lease for about 15 years,” Tutt said.

The decision … was a difficult one made by the Adlys family, owners of the Huether, rooted in financial difficulties, and changes to insurance and property taxes.

The Adlys’ claim that a lease had not existed since 2012; in exchange for a decreased rent cost and no property taxes, the two parties had agreed to a more informal leasing system, as neither had taken formal action to pursue a renewal.

This changed when the Adlys’ were notified of a 30 per cent increase to their insurance and property tax increase of approximately $27,000, which forced them to re-evaluate the cost of renting the space — a cost which, they claim, the Tutts were unable or unwilling to pay.

In this statement, they also made it clear that there were no definite offers or agreements that had been made with other possible tenants, and that the information that had been relayed to the Tutts previously had been a case of misinformation.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the potential eviction, or lack thereof, of the Princess Original from the Huether’s location on Princess Street, the news that they will be staying open for the time being is refreshing to Tutt.

However, a definite lease has yet to be negotiated or actualized, meaning the Princess Original’s future is still uncertain.

“When we do get [a lease], we do have some plans: we’d like to change the seating in there, we’d like to rearrange the snack bar, we’d like to improve our signage on the street — some cosmetic [changes] that it needs,” Tutt said.

“But why do that when, in a few months, where some other news might come around. Tenants need stability — and they get stability through leases.”

At the end of the day, the Tutts owe this opportunity to the increase in visibility created by their dedicated community members.

“A huge thank you to the [community] … and a huge thank you to all past, present and future Princess patrons: thanks for supporting us, through everything — and for coming out and seeing the movies,” Tutt said.

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