The Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill will be screening an exciting documentary on June 8.
Out of the Interior: Survival of the Small-town Cinema in British Columbia is a full-length exploration of classic movie theatres in BC’s southern interior, from Vernon’s Towne Cinema to Creston’s Tivioli; from Grand Forks’ GEM to Revelstoke’s Roxy – and every stop along the way.
The filmmakers delve into the history of public film exhibition in our province, celebrate the communal moviegoing experience in the present – and offer a glimpse of the movie house’s future in the digital age.
The documentary is also a tribute to the hard-working men and women of the region who keep the popcorn hot and the movies flickering on our screens.
In recent years, major Canadian cities have seen the demise of many long-standing single-screen movie houses. In quick succession, Vancouver lost the Hollywood, Denman and Ridge theatres. In Burnaby, Surrey, Victoria and Kelowna, still more marquee lights were permanently switched off, suggesting an alarming trend: British Columbia is losing its historic cinemas. Curtis and Silmara Emde, a Vancouver-based husband and wife photography and video production team, started documenting this transitional period through a series of articles, photography exhibits and short-form videos. This work became the basis of their multi-media Projection Project (www.projectionproject.com). They discovered that the switch from traditional 35mm film to digital projection was a major factor in many of the recent closings. The costs of digital conversion was prohibitive for independent venues already struggling with dwindling audiences and diminishing box office returns. And yet, some theatres in our smaller cities and towns managed the huge outlay for new equipment and are thriving. Furthermore, venues which had been closed, like Vernon’s Towne and Nelson’s Civic Theatre were successfully re-opened. It seems that something beyond the switch to digital projection was keeping these cinemas of the southern interior going. But what, exactly? To find out, Silmara and Curtis hit the road, travelling through the Kootenay, Okanagan, Boundary, Columbia Valley and Shuswap regions to make a documentary that would seek to answer some key questions: what makes cinemas in smaller communities succeed? And how fragile is this success, given that several of these theatres of the interior are currently for sale?
Why Out of the Interior matters
According to Curtis, the couple wanted, first and foremost, to “tip our hats” to the province’s independent theatre operators – the people who preserve the heritage of the buildings themselves while also deftly dealing with movie distributors and capricious Hollywood studios to keep their communities entertained. The stories of these dedicated theatre owners and managers, as told to Curtis and Silmara in lobbies, concession areas, auditoriums and projection booths throughout the southern interior, are personal and unvarnished; often celebratory, frequently funny, sometimes sad – but, as Silmara adds, “always real, and always rooted in the community.” Out of the Interior encourages viewers to reflect on the value of public screen entertainment in an era in which watching stories unfold in the dark with strangers may seem – to many nowadays – a nostalgic relic of the 20th century movie industry. The Emdes’ documentary shows us that while its survival is by no means assured, the collective moviegoing experience is still both valuable and viable.
Out of the Interior: Survival of the Small-town Cinema in British Columbia will be playing at select theatres throughout the southern interior throughout September and October 2017. Check your local listings and outoftheinterior.ca for dates and showtimes.
About Silmara & Curtis Emde
Silmara and Curtis are both partners in life and projects. They live in Vancouver with their son George. Silmara is a Graphic Designer and photographer while Curtis is a teacher and writer. In 2011 they started documenting, through photography and in text, the switch from analogue film projection to digital movie exhibition, which led to the creation of the Projection Project – a multimedia look at moviegoing in the digital age. In early 2016, they opened the Orange Lamphouse Studio to accommodate more creative adventures, from photo-essays to short videos. In 2014, their documentary short Till We Meet Again, a look at Kitsilano’s fabled Hollywood Theatre, premiered at the Cinematheque in Vancouver. Out of the Interior is their first feature.