Independent theatres left out of the picture in Canada’s 2021 budget

The federal government is supporting local film production, but where will these films call home once they are finished?

Local venues like the Rio Theatre are voicing their concerns. Photo courtesy of the Rio Theatre

By: Marco Ovies, Features Editor

Movie theatres have been hit hard during the pandemic, and most have been forced to shut down entirely under current public health orders. Some local cinemas have redesigned their businesses to operate and generate some sort of income — like the Rio Theatre, which is now temporarily known as the Rio Sports Bar. Unfortunately, while creative measures like the Rio Theatre’s are resourceful, many independent theatres remain in dire need of financial assistance. It came as a shock to venues across Canada when it was revealed that they had been left out of Canada’s 2021 budget.

The budget does go into detail about how Canada will be “supporting Canadian TV and Film Productions through COVID-19” and outlines that they will be “funding up to $100 million so that, during the peak spring and summer production period this year, filmmakers and producers have access to this critical backstop that reduces the financial risk productions face amidst ongoing COVID-19 shutdowns.”

While the support for local TV and film productions is a good start, the question still remains: where will we be able to watch these once COVID-19 is over?

The Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors (NICE) has similar concerns. In a blog post, they said that “Too often, cinemas are lost in the conversation between commerce, and publicly funded cultural projects. It is time for that to change.”

Venues like The Cinematheque, located on Howe Street in Vancouver, have been around since 1972, while others like the Rio Theatre have been around since 1938. Not only are these venues pillars of their communities, but they are also vital for showing local Canadian art.

Independent cinemas play a critical role in ensuring the public has access to a diverse range of Canadian and international stories, highlighting marginalized artists like those who identify as BIPOC or as LGBTQIA2S+. And as neighbourhood attractions, these venues continue to foster a sense of community. Sadly, more and more theatres are being forced to close their doors. Most recently in BC, Vancouver’s Kino Café shut down; and theatres like Powell River’s historic Patricia Theatre, the oldest theatre in Canada still in operation, are struggling to stay afloat.

“Venue closures to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 have hit cinemas hard this past year,” said NICE. “Canada is at risk of losing its independent cinemas if directed support is not provided. We are an important Canadian sector, and it is time we are recognized.”

You can donate to help keep the Patricia Theatre open online at https://patriciatheatre.com. You can also support the Rio Theatre online at http://riotheatre.ca.