Some favourite memories from friends of City Cinema
It was almost ten years ago. I was selling tickets at the cinema when he turned the corner, faced me and said cheerfully “Hey I know you!” He was standing with a cute redhead, (I had spotted the two of them a month earlier and thought to myself “damn shame he’s taken.”) At this meeting though, he saw me and despite my announcement that we had never met, he insisted that he knew me. After I corrected him, he reached out his hand and introduced himself. There was something electric about our connection and I felt he was strangely familiar too. A few months later we met again, only this time, he was single!
After that, we became inseparable. He too, became a ticket vender and on the nights I was selling tickets, he’d buy Zero bars and hold seats for us and vice versa on his ticket-selling nights. We saw countless amazing films over the years. While we were planning our wedding, Derek offered us the theatre for our intimate venue. It was everything we wanted, beginning with a slideshow, accompanied by a piano and cello, made complete with a captive audience. Though I have laughed and cried multiple times in that theatre, it was the first time I witnessed Ryan match my blubbering sniffles. It was perfect. Nowadays, two kids later, a primo date for us consists of a getaway together at City Cinema.
It was the nineties—City Cinema must have been almost brand new. At any rate, it was before the theatre really caught on. But my avant garde friend Matt knew all about it and took me to see Twist, Ron Mann’s great tribute to that wacky dance craze. The thing was, we were the only people there. And, when presented with an empty theatre and great music, we did the only natural thing. We got up and danced.
I’d always wanted to be a projectionist and so I jumped at the chance to fill in for Derek for a week. It was the most stressful job I’ve ever had: all manner of things could go wrong, from bulbs exploding to film breaking to popcorn catching fire. And, as it happened, one night the film did break. It was a tricky repair to make and I struggled to get things running again. The audience was squirming down below. I was working as hard as I could. It was hot. The minutes wore on. Things weren’t, in other words, going my way. In the midst of this the canteen clerk stuck her head up into the projection room: “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”, she asked, without a hint of irony. I didn’t know what I was doing, of course, but, still…
Quality of Life
Each of us has our own check list for what constitutes quality of life. Access to quality films is high on my list. I cut my cinematic teeth on foreign films like the “Carry On” British films, Sundays and Cybele, Alec Guinness in The Lavender Hill Mob, and François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows at the Green Hill Theater in Philadelphia. Several years ago while visiting PEI, friends told me about a small art film theater in Charlottetown. My wife and I saw Junk Mail, an obscure Norwegian film, and we were hooked on City Cinema and its combination of quality films, superb popcorn, and comfortable seats. It was natural, then, that when weighing the pros and cons of where to buy a home, City Cinema tipped the balance in favor of Charlottetown. Sadly the Green Hill Theater is closed today. Joyfully City Cinema is alive and well!
Looking for Anne
As City Cinema celebrates its 20th anniversary, this brief missive is to congratulate you on your success in bringing world-class films to Prince Edward Island. Over the years, our family has enjoyed your screenings of various films from around the world; however, our most memorable City Cinema moment occurred during your world premiere of Looking for Anne, the Canadian-Japanese production that was filmed in various locations on PEI including the Island’s Acadian community. Not only were our family and friends impressed to find familiar faces and places reflected in Looking for Anne, we were also delighted to learn that after the premiere in Charlottetown, this film won the top prizes in Singapore at the 2009 Asian Festival of First Films. As you prepare for the future, it is our hope that City Cinema will continue to present quality programming and that you will provide other opportunities for Island stories to be reflected on your big screen.
Film and Food
Years ago when Sandra Furrer operated The Black Forest Cafe on Victoria Row, it became a drop-in centre for friends and fans. Politics, books, film were all on the discussion plate as we coiffed warm brioche, salmon salad or linzer torte. One of the regulars was Derek Martin of City Cinema. He and Sandra cooked up a plan to celebrate film and food on the same night. After watching Like Water For Chocolate or Big Night, the City Cinema audience would walk up to The Black Forest. Sandra and her staff would have prepared heaping platters of regional delicacies to match the movie’s theme. The Food and Film nights reminded us that cultural experiences were at our fingertips just waiting to be crafted by people like Derek and Sandra. We held a special movie and potluck when Sandra passed away, far too young. This time the combination of two things she loved helped us celebrate and remember. I want to congratulate all who have taken part in City Cinema over the past 20 years. And to tease your taste buds, I hear there’s a Food and Film night in the future.
Joe loved movies. When City Cinema opened he was thrilled and it became our Friday night “go to” place. We became regulars. We went to the early showing and always sat in the same seats, creatures of habit. Friday night films were fodder for animated Saturday morning discussions with friends at the market. Good (or bad) films, and loud and sometimes argumentative discussions were what made everything right in the world. Joe loved to play Devil’s advocate and I was sometimes gob-smacked by the positions he took just to provoke active discourse.
After Joe, City Cinema was a life-saver. I remember the first time I went, sitting at the back, fighting back the tears one more among all those firsts. I don’t remember the film, I remember Derek’s kindness.
City Cinema continues to occupy an important part in my life. Thank you Derek for everything.
The Wonder of Cinema
“Cut and print!” Johnny Depp as Ed Wood yells to his cameraman as they move onto another hastily shot scene in Tim Burton’s homage to the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space, famous for being “the worst movie ever made.” Ed Wood is a nostalgic look back at a man with a passion, if not a talent, for film. I saw this film at City Cinema in December 1994. Shot in gorgeous black-and-white, Ed Wood represents the wonder of cinema: nostalgic, escapist, and mythic. The cinema itself must represent these same qualities. This is something that’s been lost in the multiplex world, but for twenty years City Cinema has complemented, rather than competed with, the films it’s shown. I have the poster from its City Cinema run, Johnny Depp wearing an angora sweater and sitting on a director’s chair in a cone of white light, about to yell, “Action!”
People Who Matter
The story has been told often enough how City Cinema evolved from a film series called Sunday Cinema that I ran for three seasons. What needs to be said is how much we owe to the two people who helped—Gordon Parsons and Peter Gaskin—the partners who owned and operated Wormwood’s Cinema in Halifax. Gordon Parsons connected me with film distributors, booked the first Sunday Cinema season for me, and educated me about running a movie theatre. And encouraged me. Peter Gaskin introduced me to the desktop publishing technology which eventually enabled me to start The Buzz. And encouraged me. Gordon died of a rare disease when he was in his early forties. Wormwood’s is long closed. Peter works in film production in Nova Scotia. There would be no City Cinema or Buzz without Gordon and Peter. How big a thank you is needed?