When Bernie Gurberg first opened the Dollar Cinema on June 4, 2004, he only had three customers.
Slowly but surely, word got out. Nearly two decades later, the Côte Saint-Luc theatre showcasing second-run movies has become as much a community centre as it is a movie theatre.
Except Gurberg recently announced he is having to close the theatre for good.
"It's actually our 18-year anniversary," he said. "At that time, people really started to come quite a lot and there were crowds. Everybody was happy, I spoke to everyone."
The prices at the theatre in the Décarie Square mall are legendary. For years, a ticket sold for $1, and the price has only increased to $2.50 since then.
But with streaming giants like Netflix taking over the market and the decrease in foot-traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gurberg said he's made the tough decision not to renew his lease.
The final curtain will be on July 31.
"At our prices, with not much traffic, it hurts and it hurts the bottom line, and we just don't see any way we can survive with this thing," Gurberg said, adding he's not willing to raise his prices.
"There have been some rent increases, but they've been very fair with us," he said.
Dollar Cinema is in Decarie Square, a shopping centre frozen in time by Highway 15, near the intersection of Highway 40.
Lorenzo Loggia has been coming to the theatre for the last 15 years and stopped by after hearing the news.
"I was really disappointed. I can't believe it," he said. Loggia works with a special needs group and often takes them to the cinema for movie nights on Saturdays.
Gurberg was generous over the years, he said, at times letting them in for free or offering an extra chocolate bar or bag of popcorn.
"Bernie treated us like family," Loggia said.
He's not sure he'll be able to afford the Saturday routine with the group once Dollar Cinema closes. Prices at traditional movie theatres are more than five times what Gurberg charges.
Merri Tanny has been going to the theatre for as long as she can remember.
"I've been going here since I was not even born. When my mum was pregnant, she would bring me here," Tanny said. "It's really sad. There's so many memories here."
Gurberg says he's looking forward to sitting back and catching up on all the movies he's missed over years as he stood at the cash serving popcorn.