While the start of the decade was marked by numerous cinemas shutting down, the past few years have seen the opposite trend, as a handful of movie theatres have opened up.
Adding to these encouraging indicators for the exhibition industry, the Vancouver International Film Centre (VIFC) also has revealed some news about growth taking place within the coming year.
At a news conference for the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) held today (September 4) at the VIFC’s Vancity Theatre, Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry attended to announce a significant federal investment in the centre on behalf of Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez.
Fry explained that two years ago, she announced funding for Greater Vancouver International Film Festival Society to undertake an architectural design and feasibility study to plan a renovation in the VIFC, which opened in 2005.
Today she announced that the Canadian government is giving over $1.4 million from Canadian Cultural Spaces Fund for project to reconfigure the 2,400-square-foot atrium into a multiuse presentation space.
VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis explained that the renovations, by Mcfarland Biggar Architects, will include the creation of a micro-cinema, which will take the space where the café is currently located, will allow for screenings, presentations, and events for small audiences. The capacity will be approximately 40 seats.
Consequently, the concession will be relocated with a second point of sale, improved offerings, and a new look.
Meanwhile, a virtual-reality and augmented-reality (VR/AR) lounge, which will span approximately 100 to 200 square feet, will allow the centre to present VR and AR content and keep pace with new technological formats.
While $1.3 million from the funding will be allocated for atrium, the remaining $102,500 will go towards programming.
Dupuis said the federal funding will add to municipal and provincial funding—a combined total of $425,000 from the City of Vancouver and the B.C. government—for the project as well.
She expressed gratitude for the funding and explained that it will help the centre to continue to grow and remain sustainable in the future.
“As one of the last art-house cinemas in Vancouver, this expansion project…will enhance our ability to better serve the community as a space for media arts to flourish and increase our capacity to bring cinema in all forms to Vancouver audiences,” she said.
In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Dupuis (who previously announced in July that she will be stepping down from her position after the 2019 festival) said that renovations will begin in early 2020, will have a soft completion by the summer, and will be ready for VIFF 2020.
“We’ve been bursting at the seams here so it’s really great solution for us,” she told the Straight. “I hope eventually there’ll be a second space on the horizon…but that’ll be the hope and the dream for the future.”
Vancity Theatre will continue to offer screenings throughout the renovations, although there may be a limited period of closure at some point, and a mobile concession stand will be introduced.
Fry also emphasized about the important role that cultural infrastructure like the VIFC plays in overcoming geographic expanses that separate many Canadians.
She pointed out how Canadian film contributes to “community building” across the country’s various regions by helping “us to know each other across this vast country in a way that helps us to understand all the differences we have”.
She underlined that statement by adding that Canadian film offers Canadians the “ability…to know each other” and “who we are as Canadians”.
This year’s festival, for which many titles were revealed today, takes place from September 26 to October 11 at various venues across Vancouver with online ticket sales beginning tomorrow (September 5).