A changing of the guard at Waterloo’s Princess Cinemas

By Matt Hutcheson

When he founded Princess Cinemas 40 years ago, John Tutt had no intention of showing blockbuster flicks or catering to the large studios.

He had fallen in love with art-house films and off-beat cinema while attending Wilfrid Laurier University. It was shortly after graduating that he decided to share his love independent movies with the people of Waterloo Region.

“I knew that KW was a pretty up and coming urban area and it didn’t have one place where you could call it your own, that’s gonna play these types of movies,” he told The Mike Farwell Show. “Toronto had several. London even had one at the time. It was a blend of a business opportunity and something I like.”

The theater at 6 Princess St. opened it doors in September 1985 and has since been the place in Waterloo Region to find films that sit outside the mainstream or aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

Now, some 40 years later, Tutt is ready to take a step back and enjoy some of the things he hasn’t had the time to enjoy. He plans to take a part-time advisory roll as his son Jacob and long-time Princess manager, Sophia Irwin take over day-to-day operations.

He’s seen the industry change over the years and has adapted to keep up with the times. He said change is inevitable but it’s time for the next generation to figure out how to navigate things like streaming.

“The challenge becomes, what is going to rise above the noise and get people’s attention and have them come to a cinema? Especially our types,” he said. “So the key is connecting with your community and choosing the right films. And it gets trickier, I think and that’s why I’m kinda stepping away letting the young folks give it a try.”

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