Home Film & Television Independent Cinemas In Canada are ‘In Crisis’, New Study reveals

Independent Cinemas In Canada are ‘In Crisis’, New Study reveals

Low public funding for independent cinemas could jeopardize the future of film festivals

by Benoit Guesneau
The lit Paradise Theatre sign reads, "T.O Short Film Festival 2024".
The Toronto Short Film Festival at Paradise Theatre, one of Canada’s many independent cinemas (OTR/Benoit Guesneau).

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A majority of independent cinemas are operating at a loss according to a new report by the Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors (NICE).

Of the estimated 350 independent cinemas that currently operate across Canada, 67 of them provided feedback in the report. NICE found that 70 per cent of independent cinemas require increased public funding to remain operational.

Sonya William, a director at NICE, said it’s important to realize the significance that independent cinemas have for many communities across the country and what’s at stake.

“For many of these cinemas, it’s the only art or entertainment option that people have in their community,” said William. “They might not have access to the same audience, but we’re coming together right now to have a larger voice and to raise awareness.”

From the venues surveyed in the report, 34 per cent of them are the only cultural or entertainment option in their community.

William also said that if independent cinemas are forced to close, it will limit filmmakers’ ability to get exposure for their work.

“Independent cinemas are really critical as venues for film festivals. It’s not just they provide venues for film festivals, they create the potential for new films to be shown,” she said.

Paradise Theatre, an independent cinema on Bloor Street, concluded the Toronto Short Film Festival on Sunday.

Benjamin Del Vasto’s film, Sour Love, was screened at the film festival and he said the report published by NICE sheds light on what the loss of independent theatres could mean for aspiring filmmakers.

“Whether you’re a student or just a young filmmaker, such as myself, and you’re thinking, ‘How do I try to get my name out there? How do I get people to see my stuff?,’ And the festivals are often the only way,” he said.

Jacob Thompson, another filmmaker who had their film, Please Eat Organic, screened at the Toronto Short Film Festival, said, “It’s definitely a fear if these cinemas close down. It would represent not only a loss for the film community as a whole, but for independent film festivals. I think it would be hard for them to find a home at bigger cinemas like Cineplex.”

William said that there are unwritten rules when it comes to screening films at independent theatres which makes it difficult for them to acquire funding.

More than half of the respondents reported that they routinely have to wait for Cineplex, the country’s largest cinema chain, to stop showing a film in their zone in order to screen their films.

“We’re really trying to rework these policies. We don’t see a viable way for independent cinema to exist in Canada without a change in these policies. I mean it totally limits how fun and exciting an independent cinema is,” said William.

Del Vasto added that he hopes more people will return to theatres because it’s not the same experience you get from watching a movie at home.

“Even someone like me who considers myself a movie lover – It’s still hard to not get distracted by your phone. When you’re at the theatre, it’s an immersive experience. It’s really a great way to interact with the art form and often I think most filmmakers have that hope.”

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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