Arts & Entertainment
3 min

After four years, Divergence Movie Night turns off the lights

Lights, camera, revamp

Next showings: April 13th: Ten More Good Years
May 18th: Georgie Girl

Every month, Caitlyn Pascal sits down at the computer to finalize posters, update her website and send out invites to the next the Divergence Movie Night. For Pascal, this is part of her natural rhythm and it is something that she has wanted to do — and has been doing for the past four years.

However, that is all about to change. In May, Pascal will hit the send button for the last time and temporarily turn off the lights and close Divergence Movie Night.

For the queer community, Divergence Movie Night is an opportunity to see films not necessarily available on the mainstream circuit. The films are diverse — from the history of lesbian haircuts to the world of hustlers — and appeal to a cross-section of the queer community.

Pascal uses her own money to buy the rights to movies on the festival circuit — movies that she wants to see and ones that cover topics relevant to the queer community.

“I just try and get a huge range of films to show as many topics as possible,” says Pascal. “It’s curated with that eye – partially to an eye of what is available, what’s affordable and what’s needed.”

When Divergence Movie Night first started Pascal was faced with the hefty cost of buying the films, and so she decided to open movie night to others. Pascal figured that if that she could bring in 60 people who would pay $5  — the price of a b-rated blockbuster movie — then she would be able to cover her costs.

“I decided to do it in a different way — just get everyone involved,” says Pascal. “That’s been the general goal and I just decided to keep on doing it.”

It was a great goal and a good opportunity to show movies geared towards the queer community but it was also a goal that cost money.

In the beginning, enthusiasm was high and films were well attended. But over time the number of people attending the movie nights has dwindled. In the last year, the average audience has been approximately 15 people — giving Pascal little chance of covering her costs, which range from $100 to $450 per movie.

The financial drain caused Pascal to rethink the structure of Divergence Movie Night. Her idea is to temporarily close the movie night with the intention of rebooting it in the fall with a different format and in a new location.

The movie night will move to Centretown — alternating monthly between the Shanghai Restaurant and the Raw Sugar Café, places that Pascal feels have a more social atmosphere.

 “They both have that restaurant/café feel that encourages a more natural post-movie discussion,” says Pascal. “I think those conversations will happen much more naturally and much more casually in environments like that.”

Pascal is also changing the way movies are chosen and how costs can be recuperated.

The idea is to use social networking — encouraging people to promote the films on Twitter or Facebook. Through the website, people will be able to vote on which movies in the library they want to see again, what new movies to purchase for the series, and to donate towards them online.

 “It’s kind of putting it back to the community and saying, ‘Here are all these amazing movies, which ones do you want me to show,’” says Pascal. “In that way, if Ottawa doesn’t want any of the movies I will just fold the whole thing up. It puts the impetus on the participation of the people as opposed to it being a passive institution.”

Covering costs is one of Pascal’s main concerns but she also wants to build community spirit. By purchasing the films, Pascal holds the legal right to show the film multiple times to small audiences. That gives her the freedom to host both a movie night and private screening for members of community groups.

There are currently 72 queer films in Pascal’s library, all of which can be shown again. But past experience has taught Pascal that queers can be fickle about their movies.

“We show a lesbian film, gay men don’t come usually except for a couple, we show a guy orientated film the women don’t come,” says Pascal. “But to get them out to the ones that they wouldn’t have normally been interested in — that’s the challenge.”

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