Local film society carries on fading tradition of theatre experience

February 8, 2010

It was a cold, snowy, blustery winter night in Sackville.

Three hundred people crammed into Vogue Cinema and waited for the projector to click on.

A Room With a View, an Edwardian drama starring Helena Bonham-Carter, was scheduled for that night as part of the Sackville film society’s line-up.

But the blizzard stalled the movie’s delivery.

Film society co-organizer Thaddeus Holownia hopped into a friend’s four-wheel-drive Jeep and followed a snow plow to Amherst, braving bad roads and low visibility.

Forty minutes later, Holownia returned to the Vogue Cinema, film reel in hand.

“That’s really what film society is about,” Holownia said. “People got together, they came out for the movie and then they were patient enough to wait for me to go get the movie.”

The Sackville Film Society, which currently has about 100 active members, tries to promote the film experience as a cultural and social event.

“That’s becoming rarer and rarer I think, especially in smaller communities,” said Holownia, a photography professor at Mount Allison.

Originally, the society was made up of 70 per cent students and 30 per cent Sackville residents. Now, Holownia said, it’s the other way around. And filling the theatre to capacity is a rare occurrence.

“We’re trying to continue on a tradition that is becoming harder and harder to do.”

The society tries to bring current films, usually of the independent, Canadian, international or documentary persuasion, he said.

“It’s more (about) filling a niche, to provide people with an alternate entertainment that is different from anything else people are going to experience.”

Vogue Cinema manager Jeff Coates said the film society is especially advantageous for university students who want to see what else is available in film.

“Not just a blockbuster movie, but a quality movie.”

Coates added that the society becomes a bit of an addiction once you open up your mind to it.

According to Holownia, the social aspect of the film society adds a special charm to an evening at the movies.

“When you go into the Vogue theatre, you see people you know, you hang out, you talk,” he explained. “Then after the movie, people come out, they go to the coffee shop or to Mel’s or over to Ducky’s and hang out or talk about the movie.”

But the culture of watching movies is changing.

“Unless they’re Hollywood blockbuster movies, the tendency is to download them or rent them,” he said. “Most people don’t (care) about the big screen or the experience of sound and the experience of being engulfed and being in a communal atmosphere within the context of watching something.”

Film society organizers are sometimes criticized for showing edgy films at the society, he said.

“Years ago, that didn’t make a difference. It didn’t matter what we played. We always had people out.”

But this semester’s line-up of films looks promising, he said.

“People have been pretty excited by the series this semester so maybe we’ll revive getting people out again.”

Holownia is looking forward to many of the films in this semester’s series, particularly German drama The White Ribbon.

“The film is shot in black-and-white. I just saw a trailer for it the other day. It’s a very dark film but I think that’s going to be really interesting.”

Holownia enjoys the comments he gets after they show a certain film.

“I’ll meet people on the street or at the coffee shop and people will say to me, ‘Wow. That was the best movie I’ve ever seen.’ And then the next day I’ll meet someone else who’ll say, ‘What are you doing, showing that crap?'” he said. “And that’s great. Just perfect.”

It’s also important to support your local theatre, he said.

“If you think of the alternate – of not having a theatre in town – it would be a real drag. We’re real lucky to have such a jewel of a theatre and have it fixed up and championed.”

There’s going to be a dramatic change in the way films are distributed in the next five years, he said.

“Prints are going to be a thing of the past. It’s going to be all digital,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be the same experience.”

Every film is an adventure, Holownia believes.

“I hope that people will come out, come early, bring the correct change, socialize and continue to enjoy films as light passing through film,” he said. “That’s not going to be around for much longer, I don’t think.”

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