The Cinephile Manifesto

“First coffee, then the movie revolution!” urges Jonathan Adams

The tremendous growth of the local film scene which we can witness at this year’s Nickel Film Festival is a testament to the vibrancy and endurance of film in St. John’s. Yet, for all that, there is still a significant hole in our culture that neither of the annual festivals, for all their importance, can fill.

St. John’s has no truly local cinema.

We take it as our present duty to state the obvious: Film, as an art form, cannot survive or be relevant without an audience–that is, without cinephiles–and these audiences can only gather where they are provided with a venue.

Presently, once a local film has made the round of the festivals, it all but disappears from public awareness. A few lucky ones manage to get aired on CBC in some time slot when the CBC calculates no one to be watching, but most of them begin to collect dust fairly quickly.

Furthermore, there is no place where cinephiles can go to see classic, foreign, or experimental films on a regular basis (with the exception of a few student film societies at the University that show DVD projections in classrooms).

We here at The Scope are not the only ones who feel this way.

Phillip Cairns, filmmaker, member of NIFCO:

The Women’s Film Festival is huge, and the Nickel is getting bigger, but if you want people to be into films, the films have to be present. Lots of people are into the local music scene because local musicians are playing all the time, promoting themselves all over the place. Does local film do anything like that? Nope. We’re a blip on the map that’s easily missed by most people. What I’d like to see is a small downtown movie theatre, something like 100 seats, maybe even fewer, with screenings once or twice a week, or just on weekends, whatever. A place to show independent films, Canadian films, and local film shorts.

Bart Simpson, producer of Moebius Redux and The Corporation:

When I first moved here I was floored that in a city that prides itself on its artists and the audience it creates for them, there’s no rep cinema. I’ve heard of a few folks who tried but never got it off the ground. There are a lot of existing examples either currently or in the past that would work, but for a population this size, I think 2 models are the way to go:

1. Rep Cinema with Hollywood films on weekends. Screen just-run films from Thursday or Friday to Sunday, matinees for kids if needed. Charge something like $5 for tickets and reasonable on the popcorn stand. Dark day on Monday, then Tuesday and Wednesday, possibly Thursday run special screenings of independent film. Will pay the bills and at least provide something for people wanting to see an alternative. The Cinecenta at the University of Victoria is a good example of this, although it’s held out by the uni, pretty far from downtown. There’s also the Ridge cinemas in Vancouver if it’s still there. The Ridge and other rep cinemas also had “movies for mommies”, charging about the same amount and opening it to parents with newborns up to 18 months. So the audience was used to crying, etc. Did very well. Once per week on Tues Afternoons.

2. A smaller venue, combining bar/café and cinema, dedicated to more indie films. Kind of speaks for itself, maybe a capacity of 100. The Blinding Light in Vancouver was a good example.

Cinephiles do exist in great, if untold, numbers in St. John’s. Most of them are at home expanding their DVD collections.

There is some hope in the news that the developer Paul Madden has purchased the recently vacated CBC building (once the Capitol Theatre). He plans to refurbish the building and convert it into a live theatre space. We asked him if there was a possibility the building could also be used to screen classic, foreign, and local films, to which he replied: “That’s something that I’m certainly looking into.”

Cinephiles of the city, rejoice! for our time is near at hand.

Capital Theatre, 2007