May 23rd, 2024

Curtain closing on Binning ownership of the Movie Mill


By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on April 18, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Len and Debra Binning, who have been running the Movie Mill for three decades, are passing the independent cinema's popcorn and projectors over to new owners.

A new chapter in the history of the locally owned Movie Mill theatre is set to begin soon.

Movie Mill owner Leonard Binning said Wednesday new ownership will take over the theatre within the next week.

“We’re so appreciative of the community. The Movie Mill has been about community and the community has been very supportive of us. They helped us through COVID, and some rough times and we’ve been there for them but they in turn have been there for us and without them the Movie Mill wouldn’t exist,” said Binning.

Binning said he and his wife Debra ran the Movie Mill as a family-owned business with two of their children being actively involved.

A third child was born during their ownership of the Movie Mill which opened 30 years ago in August of 1994 by the Binnings as the first independent discount theatre in Canada in a strip mall on the south end of Mayor Magrath Drive.

According to a history of the theatre by the Galt Museum, The Movie Mill “was an immediate success, launching price wars that gave Lethbridge movie-goers the best deal in the country for a time.”

Binning said he began having health challenges around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and recalled how a local group helped out by getting involved at that time by purchasing a majority ownership stake in the business.

“I was experiencing some health challenges. And they were aware of that, and they helped us out. They bought a majority stake in the company. My kids kept a reasonable portion. And now two-and-a-half years later, they’re ready to take over the reins. And I guess we’re ready for retirement,” said Binning.

Binning said he has had to undergo heart surgery and hopes to focus on his health. The hand-over was going to happen April 13 but due to all the paperwork and finalization, that is expected to happen next week.

“The Binning family will be moving on from the movie business. And we’re at peace with that. As difficult as that is. It’s time – like I say I’ve experienced some health challenges that we need to focus on.

“And most of my kids have alternate employment. So it’s a good thing for everybody. And it’ll be good for the community as well. I am confident that the new group will continue to run the Movie Mill like a well-oiled machine.”

He said the new owners hope to follow the pattern of how the Movie Mill operates with growth in the future plans.

“I think for this first little bit, they’re simply going to follow very much to the pattern that we’ve laid out. And then I think once they get the feel for things, they’ll start to grow and expand as they see fit,” said Binning.

Binning said the Movie Mill has been a family effort since the start.

“It’s been a family love and a family effort right from basically Day One (with) all my kids… It’s been very much family driven. And I think that’s reason why we’ve done it for so long and succeeded as well, because we’ve had five brains working at it,” he said.

The Movie Mill has attracted customers by not only showing second-run films but also smaller faith-based, independent and films of a specialized nature.

On its Facebook page, the Movie Mill says it offers “a premium experience at an affordable price.”

Its prices range from $4 admission all day for everyone on Tuesdays to $5 admission for seniors 60 and over and for children aged 2-14.

General admission for those 15-59 is only $6 all day. Prices, however, will vary on premium screenings and exclude films in 3D.

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