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The Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, in Toronto, on April 22.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Less than a month after wrapping the 31st edition of its annual film festival under a cloud of financial and organizational uncertainty, Hot Docs on Wednesday announced that it would close its flagship Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto for about three months, starting June 12.

During this period – which will result in temporary layoffs for an unknown portion of staff – the Hot Docs leadership team aims to conduct a review of the single-screen theatre’s programming and operations in order to ensure what organizers hope will be a viable path forward for the non-profit organization.

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s crucial for us to take this step now. This temporary closure will enable us to pause, recalibrate and strategically plan a sustainable future for this beloved organization,” Robin Mirsky, co-chair of Hot Docs’ board, said in a statement.

The move comes after Hot Docs endured a rash of challenges both external and internal.

In early March, in a public plea rare for Canadian arts institutions, Hot Docs president Marie Nelson told The Globe that the organization was facing “significant operational challenges” and that its future was in serious doubt. Weeks later, filings with the Canada Revenue Agency revealed that Hot Docs had a deficit of just more than $2-million in the period ending May, 2023.

Asked last month whether she was aware of the deficit when starting her position in June, 2023, Ms. Nelson told The Globe and Mail that, “When I started there were lots of financial inquiries done across the organization to make sure that we had the most accurate picture, and that work was in process as I arrived.”

After being excluded from the 2024 federal budget last month, Hot Docs organizers issued a statement excoriating the Liberal government for “picking winners and losers in Canada’s cultural landscape.”

Meanwhile, 10 members of the Hot Docs programming team resigned in late March, weeks before the festival began, with organizers also revealing that newly installed artistic director Hussain Currimbhoy had departed for “personal reasons” after four months on the job.

Finally, as the festival kicked off in late April, it was revealed that two members of the Hot Docs board, Scotiabank senior vice-president Laura Curtis Ferrera and filmmaker Barry Avrich, resigned for personal reasons. Their departures brought Hot Docs’ board down from 23 members in the spring of 2023 to 14 today.

In an interview with The Globe ahead of the festival’s launch, board member and filmmaker Nick de Pencier said that Hot Docs had begun to look at the governance, size and composition of its board, adding that “any insinuation that there are people leaving in discomfort would be greatly overstated.”

According to Hot Docs, this year’s festival – which screened 168 films across 274 screenings – exceeded box-office revenue targets by 12 per cent. Meanwhile, year-round attendance at the Ted Rogers Cinema is tracking ahead of the 2023 fiscal year, with ticket revenue up 59 per cent and annual membership sales up 21 per cent.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming support that we’ve received from our community since we vocalized our operating deficit in March. We’ve made significant progress since then, but there is still important work to do to ensure that we emerge stronger and more resilient, and that Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema continues to be a vibrant cultural hub for Toronto,” Mirsky said in a statement, which added that the organization is “optimistic about reopening the cinema in the fall.”

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