We are writing to clarify issues raised by Carl Rankin in his recent letter (RPAC public subsidies, alcohol sales hurt Roxy Theatre, Letters, Sept. 25). We dispute his argument that grants to the RPAC will undermine the Roxy Theatre, and counter that there is room in the growing Revelstoke cinematic community for more than one approach and more than one cinematic venue.
First, though, we wish to say that the Roxy is an excellent theatre, and that we congratulate Mr. Rankin for his efforts over the years to sustain a high quality cinema venue in Revelstoke, to make this commercially viable, and to provide the best popcorn in town. We do not underestimate the challenges of operating a small theatre in a small city.
Just as people have different tastes for bread and beer, however, there are different tastes in films.
International films, art films, documentaries, and independent films made by producers and directors operating outside of the major Hollywood distribution chains are seldom available in mainstream cinemas.
Canada has two major film festivals, one in Vancouver and one in Toronto. So that film buffs across Canada can also enjoy independent films shown at these festivals, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) several years ago established a distribution network for small cities throughout Canada, named Film Circuit; it provides films shown at TIFF to 160 communities where such films otherwise would not be seen.
To join the Film Circuit requires application by a registered non-profit society. The reason is that Film Circuit enjoys both the public and private sectors, with a major goals being to develop audiences for Canadian film.
In Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kamloops and Kelowna, non-profit film societies have been formed so that citizens can enjoy independent film.
Several attempts have been made in Revelstoke to form such a society. Pacific Cinematheque operated for two years and made $3,000 for our Arts Council in the first year. The venue was free but that money would have paid for theatre use. The cost was $6 per film or $35 per subscriber. The group ceased to operate when the BC Arts Council pulled its support, as it did with many BC arts organizations. Another film showing series was Monday Night Movies at the United Church, where one hard-working film lover provided her own videos and popcorn, for a donation, to film lovers.
A film society as a non-profit organization requires volunteers who attend to all the details including film selection, distribution, marketing and organization. A society can rent a commercial venue such as the Roxy for its films. However, for the president of such a society to own the for-profit theatre at which the society pays rent to show films represents a serious ethical challenge. (This was one of the reasons for the failure of one previous effort to start a film society in Revelstoke, the now-defunct Mount Mackenzie Film Society.)
Movies in the Mountains, the film series now planned for the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, is to show three TIFF films this fall that are not available commercially through mainstream distribution channels on which the Roxy relies. Existing non-profit societies have offered their services and modest fees to RPAC in order to make the TIFF circulation possible. If citizens are interested, as an outcome of these efforts, in forming a film society in Revelstoke through a new or an existing non-profit society, this is an option.
Arts and culture are the diamonds of our society: rough or cut, solitaire or many-facetted, glittering or unpolished, all have value. We need to treasure both high- and low-brow culture, and the many manifestations of creative endeavour, including film, that provide the imaginative expression of who we are.
We have no doubt that the Roxy will continue to show mainstream film, and to bring audiences the highbrow operatic events possible through digital streaming; also that the theatre will survive the efforts of alternative cinema buffs to find a way to see a few independent movies that may not appeal to wider audiences.
Further, we congratulate the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, its manager and its supporters, including the City of Revelstoke, for their support of independent film.