Out of the Interior
OUT OF THE INTERIOR
Survival of the Small Town Cinema in British Columbia
a feature documentary – coming soon!
Welcome to our first foray into working with actual film. First, we planned a purely visual scenario (there would be no synchronized sound) that would frame the ‘thesis’ question of our documentary Out of the Interior: Survival of the small-town cinema in British Columbia. Next, we ordered some colour and black and white reversal cartridges from Kodak, borrowed a Canon Super 8 camera (circa 1981) from our friend Michael van den Bos and headed to the BC interior to do some filming. Processing and the 2K scan was done by the good people at Niagara Custom Lab in Ontario, and the music is courtesy of composer Dave Cunningham, who is producing the score. Stand by for more film experimentation from the Projection Project and look for the documentary itself in 2017!
Out of the Interior: Project Overview
In recent years, Vancouver has seen the closing of classic cinemas like the Hollywood and Ridge theatres. In 2012, the last movie house on Granville street’s Theatre Row, once home to nearly a dozen motion picture palaces, shut its doors. In Burnaby, Surrey and Victoria, marquee lights have also been permanently switched off, confirming an alarming trend: British Columbia is losing its historic cinemas.
The switch from traditional 35mm film to digital projection has been a major factor in these closures. Purchasing and installing the new equipment can cost up to $80,000 – a prohibitive expense for independent venues already struggling with dwindling audiences and diminishing box office returns. Most of the theatres in BC that were willing and able to make the digital conversion had done so by the end of 2012. The ones that weren’t held on until film itself stopped being shipped to them.
Nevertheless, some theatres in smaller cities were not only able to get the new equipment and keep their doors open, but also to thrive in this digital age. Furthermore, formerly shuttered cinemas, such as Nelson’s Civic Theatre, have successfully re-opened, while others are being re-imagined as multi-purpose community centres – as we’re seeing in Penticton with the proposed revitalization of the Pen-Mar Theatre.
It seems that something beyond the switch to digital was happening with these cinemas of the interior. But what, exactly? To find out, we hit the road, travelling through the Kootenays, Okanagan, Boundary and Columbia valley districts, to make a documentary that would seek to answer some key questions: what makes cinemas in smaller communities succeed when so many of their counterparts in our larger urban centres have failed? And how fragile is their existence, given that several of these theatres of the interior are currently for sale?
We also wanted to pay tribute to the dedicated and hard-working independent theatre owners & operators of our province – the people who keep the movies flickering on the screens and the popcorn fresh. Their stories, as told to us in lobbies, concession areas, auditoriums and projection booths, are personal and unvarnished; often celebratory, frequently funny, sometimes sad…but always real, and always rooted in the community.
Our documentary encourages viewers to reflect on the value of public entertainment in an era in which watching stories unfold in the dark with strangers may seem to many merely a nostalgic relic of the 20th century movie industry. Out of the Interior shows us that while its survival is by no means assured, the collective movie-going experience is still both valuable and viable.