Saint John Film Circuit to show TIFF films at Empire
05 Mar 2012 06:50PM
SAINT JOHN – Pauline Cronin and her new best friend Mary Buffett want southern New Brunswick to join them on a regular movie date.
They co-chair TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Film Circuit Saint John which will show its first movie, Monsieur Lazhar, March 14 at Empire Theatres in Saint John. This drama directed by Philippe Falardeau won the prize as best Canadian movie at the Toronto festival last year. The movie, in French with English subtitles, earned a nomination for an Academy Award as best foreign language film. With tickets at $10 they expect to sell out the 167-seat theatre in east Saint John, they said in an interview on a rainy Saturday afternoon in an uptown restaurant/bar.
“We know we will (sell out) on the second one because we’re bringing the Academy Award winner,” Cronin said. The Iranian film A Separation beat out Monsieur Lazhar for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.
In May the new group will show Salmon Fishing in Yemen, a foreign comedy directed by Lasse Hallström about a visionary sheik who wants to bring salmon fishing to the desert. For April and onwards TIFF Film Saint John will show its movies on the first Wednesday of each month, show time 7 p.m. The group picked a different day this month to avoid competing with March break.
“We would like TIFF Film Saint John to become your destination film night,” Cronin said.
“We’re trying to give something that people won’t have an opportunity to see,” Buffett said.
A month ago Cronin, a chartered accountant and sometimes-actress in Rothesay, and Buffett, a computer software consultant in Saint John, did not know each other.
“We were complete strangers but we each independently approached TIFF Film Circuit,” Cronin said.
TIFF Film Circuit introduced them electronically. They exchanged emails and agreed to meet. “It was a blind date,” Cronin said. Each already had a handful of friends ready to volunteer if they established a local TIFF Film Circuit. The group has since grown to 23. Film Circuit, a division of TIFF founded in 1989, allows “under-served communities” to see Canadian and international films, according to the organization’s website. TIFF Film Circuit Saint John is one of 177 similar groups in 160 communities across Canada, Buffett and Cronin said. The local group will select from movies shown at the annual Toronto festival. TIFF puts the local group in touch with the distributors. The group pays the licensing fee for the film and rents the theatre. The local groups show only recent movies, they explained – at least six weeks after their releases, but before they come out as DVDs and before local movie houses show them. Commercial theatres would not likely show the movies TIFF Film Circuit Saint John plans to bring, they said. Empire Theatres will rent its facility on a normally slow night. Patrons get to watch films they might not otherwise see in a real movie house with popcorn.
“We regard ourselves in partnership with Empire,” Cronin said. “Seriously, we’re not in competition. We’re serving a different audience.” The Toronto International Film Festival reaches out to smaller places. The production companies earn more at the box office.
“The reason we exist is to get films you don’t necessarily get,” Buffett said. “It really is a win-win in this region,” Cronin said.
Over the past month this group set up a PayPal account and Facebook page. A website will soon come out. Crosby Molasses Co. Ltd. signed on as major sponsor. Cronin and Buffett feel the group can break even with an average attendance of 85. Of the $10 ticket price, $3.50 will go to the film distributor, they said. Leasing the theatre and the cost of promotion, printing tickets and other incidentals will eat up the rest. Volunteers will donate their time. Buffett and Cronin hope that patrons will give the group a second chance if it picks a dud one month.
“It’s about a passion for films,” Cronin said. “As film-lovers it’s kind of cool to be associated with TIFF.”
After the summer break the new season will begin in October. The group will pick from movies shown at the Toronto festival in September.