Curate the Rio lets audiences decide what to watch

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A film featuring the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman will play at the Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway) later this month, but the independent movie theatre will not be deciding which one. Starting this month, movie-goers will have the chance to choose what’s onscreen using WannaWatch.it, an app developed by Vancouver’s 20 Year Media.

“This is a way for us to involve our audience,” Rachel Fox, programmer for the Rio, tells the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “We are a neighbourhood theatre. We service a neighbourhood. We service a niche, and this another way for us to engage with them in a diplomatic way.”

The inaugural screening for the Curate the Rio: People’s choice film series will take place May 26 at 7 p.m. Cinephiles have until midnight on Monday (May 19) to vote on whether they would prefer to see Boogie Nights, Capote, or Synecdoche, New York. The movie with the greatest number of votes will be shown at the Rio the following week, and the first 100 people to vote will receive a free ticket to the screening.

“To have a tribute night for any artist or director who passes away is kind of a no-brainer, but I think Philip Seymour Hoffman, specifically, was so prolific and he made so many really beloved films,” Fox says, adding that Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2005 for his role in Capote.

These films are three of more than 12,000 in the WannaWatch.it database. The web app, which was created in 2013 and is free to use, tracks movies from the 1920s to present.

“There are great movies out there and people want to see them but exhibitors and theatre owners don’t always know what movies people really want to watch, and people don’t know where to find the movies they really want to watch,” Ryan Nadel, cofounder of 20 Year Media, says in a separate phone interview.

Nadel notes that most movie theatres have trouble filling seats and part of the problem is not recognizing what audiences in the area actually want to watch.

“Exhibitors are just taking what studios give them and putting them on their screens,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is aggregate the demand around specific theatres and then match that demand with an audience and a screen.”

While the Rio is the first movie theatre that 20 Year Media is working with, Nadel says that he hopes to expand the use of WannaWatch.it to cinemas across North America.

The Curate the Rio: People’s choice film series will continue throughout the summer. In June, audiences will be able to vote for a Kevin Smith movie, which will screen ahead of the writer-actor’s appearance at the Rio on June 22. Details on when to vote will be announced on the Rio’s Facebook and Twitter pages and the WannaWatch.it website.

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