What’s up with the movies?

Editor’s Note:

Carl Rankin’s letter to the editor of the Times Review, referred to below, was simultaneously offered to The Revelstoke Current. I declined to publish it because it was clearly in response to a story in the Times Review and in the newspaper industry it is generally considered bad form to publish a comment, column or story about something that appeared in a competitor’s publlication. Carl Rankin’s letter (please click here to read the version in PDF oromat that was sent to The Current) has now gone beyond the pages of the Times Review to become the subject of community discussion. That now makes it news in and of itself. And it is in that spirit that we happily publish this commentary by Leslie Savage and Toni Johnston.

By Leslie Savage and Toni Johnston

An argument has arisen recently as to whether or not it’s appropriate for the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre to show movies.

Carl Rankin, the owner of the Roxy Theatre, argues that movies at RPAC will undermine the viability of the Roxy.

The counter is that there is room in the growing Revelstoke cinematic community for more than one approach and more than one cinematic venue.

Just as people have different tastes for bread and beer, they have different tastes in film.

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 the support of both the public and private sectors, with a major goal 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 another 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: The Sapphires, last Wednesday; No, a Chilean film; and Kon-Tiki. These films 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.

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.

We congratulate the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre, its manager and its supporters, including the City of Revelstoke, for their support of independent film.

Leslie Savage and Toni Johnston are both thoughtful and publicly engaged residents of Revelstoke