The Charlottetown Film Society incorporated to run cinema
by Derek Martin
It doesn’t seem that long since City Cinema opened in September 1993, but we have customers now whose parents started dating there! It has been a terrific adventure so far—on top of the over 1,600 films we’ve shown in our regular schedule we have done hundreds of screenings for non-profit and private groups, hosted film festivals and film-makers, and had live performances from music to comedy to the CBC Poetry Face-Off.
As you may know, the cinema industry is undergoing a major change as 35mm projectors are being replaced with digital ones. This is an expensive proposition, and likely means upgrades and replacements down the road. In England, Ireland, and elsewhere in Europe, the government has stepped in to help smaller cinemas manage the change, but not here. Hollywood has subsidized the larger exhibitors’ transition to digital with some of their savings (no film prints to manufacture), but as we’re not showing many first-run Hollywood films that doesn’t apply for us.
After much thought, discussion, and research, I have decided on the best way forward for City Cinema. The Charlottetown Film Society has been incorporated as a non-profit group that will acquire City Cinema, oversee the transition to digital, and operate it as a community owned non-profit. Combining City Cinema’s long-term success (we are now finishing a record year at the box office) with the non-profit model that has proven itself in many other Canadian cities will put the Cinema in an excellent position to continue as a vital part of our cultural life for years to come.
The Charlottetown Film Society’s mandate is “To act as a vital contributor to Prince Edward Island’s film culture by offering regular presentations of significant and diverse cinematic works,” and “To provide opportunities in our community for the study, appreciation and celebration of film and the moving image as culturally significant art forms.” We have no plans to change the programming beyond adding more screenings and special events where possible, and movie-goers should notice little if any difference after the transition is complete.
The founding board members are long-time Cinema volunteer Frank Connolly, Louise Lalonde, a filmmaker who also runs PEI’s Screenwriter’s Boot Camp, and Emma Fugate, owner of E Accounting Services. We will be having our first Annual General Meeting in late September to elect a full board, and in the meantime we will be starting our fundraising, and forming committees. General memberships will go on sale sometime in the summer, but we are now offering ten $1,000 life founding memberships as part of our initial fundraising. The life memberships will be immediately valid at City Cinema, and will include a free rental of the cinema for a private screening, and permanent acknowledgement in the lobby.