Vancouver International Film Centre bucks downward industry trends
The doom and gloom that the local film exhibition industry has had to face, due to rapid and dramatic technological and economic changes, has dominated most movie news headlines over the past few years. But one of the few organizations that is managing to buck the trend is the Vancouver International Film Centre.
At the annual general meeting of the Greater Vancouver International Film Festival Society held on Tuesday (April 17) at the VIFC, festival director Alan Franey gave a quick rundown of what the industry has had to contend with.
"There are closing theatres and box office disappointments, of course," he said. "There's a glut of films, with supply outstripping demand. There's digital downloading, Netflix, YouTube, the internet in general to compete with. There's the demise of 3D, it seems. There's the demise of DVD. There's digital taking over from 35 mm, and there's 50 film festivals in Vancouver area and counting."
Despite all of this, Franey specified two major issues that the VIFC has weathered.
"One was that attendance is declining for film theatres. Over the course of the last ten to twelve years, there has been a lot of shifting and adjusting and redoubling efforts to prosper…whereas the festival continues to thrive. The second of them is the financial troubles that we saw at the beginning for 2007, and hitting us hard in 2008, and what that meant to arts funding. So we did really try to protect ourselves as best as possible, to keep overheads low, diminish services as much as we could without harming the quality of the festival or the program offerings here year round."
Franey said that it was only achieved with a lot of "sweat, and sacrifice and volunteer support". But he said that they feel that "it's time now to reinvest in the future" and are currently in the midst of a two-year investment plan.
Part of that plan included hiring executive director Jacqueline Dupuis, the former director of the Calgary International Film Festival. Franey explained Dupuis will focus on finances and operations while Franey will remain festival director and CEO.
The VIFC has also embraced technological change in several ways. Last year's VIFF Film and TV Forum focused on "emphasizing innovation and change" and included new media content. The VIFC purchased a DCP–enabled high-end digital projector, and an upgraded website and ticketing system will be launched in the summer.
Attendance at last year's 30th annual film festival was 152,000, slightly up from 150,000 in the previous year. Franey said that they have maintained their position as the fifth largest film festival in North America.
The non-profit society's statement of operations revealed that in 2011, revenues exceeded expenditures by $34,008, compared to $123,356 in 2010.
"It's only through a lot of extra commitment of staff and volunteers and stakeholders that we're able to reach such a fragmented audience these days," he said. "But it's really gratifying to see it work at the film festival."
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.