Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival will lose its primary screening venue when the Granville 7 theatre closes its doors Nov 4.
Paul Crosby, the festival’s director of sponsorship and marketing, says the closure has left the queer organization in a bind but says he’s hopeful he can find another venue in time for next year’s big anniversary.
“We’re looking for what the best fit is for our 25th anniversary next year,” he says. “There’s no question that it’s going to be a challenge, but there are other venues in the city that we are looking into.”
Crosby would not say which other venues the film fest is considering but notes Cineplex-Odeon International Village has hosted many of the festival’s screenings in the last few years.
Still, he says, the loss of the Granville 7 theatre will be felt.
“The Granville 7 has been our main-stage theatre since 2005. The beauty of Granville 7 was that they were so easy to work with,” he says.
The multiplex cinema, located in Vancouver’s main entertainment strip, boasts a 650-seat theatre — one of the largest in the city — and is perfect for the festival’s opening and closing galas, Crosby says.
The theatre’s proximity to the gay village has also been beneficial to festival-goers, he points out.
Granville 7 is owned by Nova Scotia’s Empire Theatres, which operates 50 theatres across Canada with a total of 383 screens. Xtra’s attempts to reach Empire Theatres for comment were unsuccessful at press time.
Empire Theatres vice-president Dean Leland told straight.com Oct 9 that the theatre is no longer financially viable.
“Attendance levels at that theatre have been sliding for a couple of years now, given the competitive landscape in the area, and that current theatre is not state of the art and not really what our guests are looking for versus some of the other venues in the city. We looked at many options on what we could or might be able to do there, but none of them were of a viable nature, so we made the decision that following the Vancouver International Film Festival and . . . [the South Asian Film Festival] that we would close the operation.”
Alan Franey, artistic director for the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), says Granville 7’s closure comes as no surprise.
Franey says VIFF, which has used the theatre as its hub for more than 10 years, learned from Empire months ago that the cinema would be shut down.
Franey says decreasing profits in the cinema market as Vancouver consumers opt for alternate sources of entertainment, including the internet, have contributed to the loss of Granville 7 and other theatres throughout the city.
“We knew it was just a matter of time before it closed. There was no mystery,” he says. “My initial reaction was, ‘Okay, isn’t it great that they at least let us be there this year.’ And then my thoughts turned to what it meant to the city. And were people realizing the consequences of the city losing theatre after theatre?
“There’s no question there have been a couple of theatres close in the city,” he says. “It’s a concern for us and for other film festival organizations in the city.”
Franey, who has seen approximately two dozen theatres close during his 25 years at VIFF, predicts Granville 7’s closure will have a big impact on the local film festival scene.
“This is the last one on Theatre Row,” he points out. “It’s an important one. It represented a critical mass in that it was nice that it provided seven centrally located screens under one roof.
“They also made it affordable for non-profits to be there,” he adds. “They really were great to work with.”
Despite losing a key venue, both the queer and international film festivals say they will continue.
Crosby says cost and accessibility are key factors in deciding where the Queer Film Festival events and screenings will be held next year.
Franey says VIFF is discussing options with Cineplex-Odeon International Village, SFU Woodward’s, The Centre for Performing Arts and the Vogue Theatre. VIFF will also continue using the Vancity Theatre for festival screenings.
Franey also says VIFF would be willing to share any venues it finds with other local film festivals, provided they work together and pool their resources.
“We’re forging a path that other festivals, we hope, will be able to benefit from. We can work together,” he says.
“We need to forge forward, and Out on Screen knows they are welcome here. It takes a lot of people to build a village,” he adds.