EX-CENTRIS RE-BRANDS: The Temple to Cinema on The Main becomes an Alternative Arts Centre

By Alan Hustak on January 7, 2010

Ten years after Ex-Centris opened as Montreal’s premier cinema art house, the $35-million complex on St. Lawrence Blvd is attempting to carve a new niche for itself as a multi media showcase for emerging  talent.

Ex-Centris was not your ordinary megaplex.  With  its digital production labs and sound systems better than THX AND Dolby, Ex-Centris has, for the past 10 years been used exclusively as a state-of- the- art movie arcade. Without  the pop-corn. Nothing anywhere else in the world could compare.  That changed earlier this year after Softimage media guru Daniel Langlois, who build Ex-Centris in 1999, teamed up with Herschel Segal, the founding chairman and former CEO of Le Chateau to set up Fondation Image Lumiere Movement & Son (FILMS)  a non-profit foundation aimed at creating a new performance space for musicians and performing artists.

Cassavetes-Fleisher-classique.jpgDuring the summer the largest of the three Ex-Centris  screening  rooms, the Salle Casavettes  was converted into multi-media exhibition hall and 250 seat cabaret. Another 250 seat theatre, the Salle Fellini, which already had a  built-in flat-floor stage and descending walls and a five tone screen on wheels also became an all purpose hall.  The loading docks were converted into green rooms, a full-service  kitchen and a lobby bar were added and a  $150,000 Steinway Piano that once belonged to actor Chevy Chase was brought in from New York.

The two rooms were inaugurated in September. Instead of films, Ex-Centris  now offers a more varied concert series of multiple art forms.  Singer Chloe Sainte-Marie used the Salle Fellini for the launch of her Innu album, Nitshisseniten e Tshissenitamin, and Swedish Singer Jay-Jay Johanson was the opening act in the remodeled Casavettes room. Since then Ex-centris has been the scene of corporate events, benefit concerts featuring an evening with Kent Nagano, performances by Leon Fleisher and Matt Haimovitz, and several CD  launches.  

 Indie art house films will continue to be screened in Cinéma Parallele’s smaller 100- seat theatre for another  year until the cinema’s lease expires. 

“’We’re still doing movies,” says Langlois, “But we want to push the envelope and expand the programming to include all kinds of performance art. Music has been greatly affected by the digital age. If alternative or world beat musicians want to attract fans to live shows, the musicians and singers require a new and innovative setting in which to mount their performance art.  The main drawing card at Ex-Centris is its excellent sound and digital projection capabilities, comfortable halls, and the adaptability of the two main theatres. They are ideal for intimate shows that involve interaction between the artists and their audience.”

Segal had originally thought of buying the Notman House on Sherbrooke St. and converting it into an alternative performance space, like the Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village or a Hardrock Café.  Then he met  Langlois, who wanted to take full advantage of his Ex Centris complex and turn it into a multi-media cultural centre. The two men were perfectly in tune, but their foundation is still a work in progress.

. “As an entrepreneur I try different things. What we would like to do is to produce shows at Ex-Centris that are commercial, yet experimental,” says Segal.  “A lot of artists need help, They’re not in it for the deal. they just want to perform. We’re offering them a place to do it.” As one example, he cites the French group, Tanuki, project  who are now living in Montreal and made their electronic trip-hop debut at Ex-Centris in November. 

 “Ex-Centris is Daniel’s castle, it is his house,” says Segal, “We’ve have considered a lot of things right across the board since we got together, but now we are taking a step back and rethinking the programming.  We’d like to operate as a performance venue only. Acts who want to come in will get the gig and be given the performance space for nothing. They’ll get the box office receipts, and, Ex-Centris will get the profits from the food and drink that’s sold.”

Langlois agrees  that  it will take time for the two to arrive at a recipe that succeeds.. “It’s been intense, Some things are working well, some are working less well,  but we’ve learned a lot, and  we’re slowing down and trying to achieve a balance and a marketing strategy that works,” he says. 

Programming at Ex-Centris resumes in February when the indie-alternative-quiet pop-rock 

group, Stars perform. For programming information visit  



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