One of the Victoria Film Festival’s major screening venues has closed its doors for good – leaving festival organizers with less than four months to secure a new location and raise funds for a pricey piece of equipment in time for its 20th anniversary.
The Empire Capitol Six Cinema in downtown Victoria closes on Thursday. This leaves the annual 10-day festival with just one screen at the recently reopened Vic Theatre, which is operated by the VFF, and a 29-seat “micro-cinema” at the Parkside Victoria Resort, director Kathy Kay said. Meanwhile, attendance at the festival has grown steadily over the years, with an estimated 24,000 attendees last year.
But the closing affects more than just capacity: Without the digital cinema projectors at the Capitol Six, festival organizers have no way of showing many of the latest blockbuster releases that are available only in digital format.
“It limits so much which films we can screen,” Ms. Kay said. “Small, independent documentary films, we can get those on DVD or digibeta – we have all the equipment and can screen those – but any kind of more prominent film from a more mainstream distributor, their product is only [compatible with digital projectors].”
Ms. Kay said she is trying to be optimistic that the festival will secure a new venue – and a new projector – in time for its 20th anniversary in February, but admits she is worried.
Organizers are trying to raise $50,000 to purchase a portable digital cinema projector. Over the weekend, they launched modest fundraising efforts, which included posting a short video on the festival’s and the Vic Theatre’s websites explaining their predicament, accompanied by links through which people can donate.
Among other measures, the festival has reserved a conference centre theatre – though also without a digital projector – and will approach Cineplex and other venues to inquire about partnering to replace the two lost screens, Ms. Kay said.
And if that doesn’t work?
“We’ll figure something out,” she said. “You always try and be optimistic. Will the festival get scaled back substantially? That’s quite possible.”
Empire Company Ltd. announced the sale of Empire Theatres to Cineplex and Landmark this summer. However, the Capitol Six site was not part of the sale.
“Empire Company Limited plans to realize the real estate value of the property at some point in the future, but no decisions have been made as of yet,” spokesman Andrew Walker said in an e-mail Wednesday.