The Future: Cozy Micro-Cinemas?

Let’s cut right to the chase: I’m an architect that loves cinema. I especially love all of the small-town cinema venues of my childhood, like The Capital Theatre in Huntsville, Ontario, or the Tivoli Theatre in Hamilton, or the Rio Theatre in Guerneville, or the O’Brien Theatre in Renfrew, ON . These are the theatres where I first saw Star Wars, Bladerunner, Titanic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Shining and Avatar. Epic films, epic venues. What Cineplex seems to not understand, is that the Architecture also matters ~ A LOT! Movie-goers crave diversity not just in programming, but in food and even venues. For this reason, and prompted by the pending demolition of Barrie’s beloved Uptown Theatre to make way for condos, the crazy, core mission of BRAVE | Social Cinema is to raise funds for a publicly owned* theatre and multi-purpose venue in the City of Barrie. It’s crazy because even if we do a budget building, we’d need at least $2mln for the land and building. So what we’re busy demonstrating right now is that the costs for programming, licensing and equipment are the smallest budget item* and can be accomplished entirely by volunteers, like me. *PS: The 5 Points Theatre IS publicly owned by the City of Barrie, and they have offered to be our anchor venue for screenings in 2019! But ultimately this one theatre will not be enough for our growing city, and to accommodate the needs of the Barrie Film Festival and other events.

But here is a question for you; have you lost interest in going out to the movies because of the endless repetition of the same genres, tired formulas and degenerating quality of the blockbuster schlock at your local megaplex?

Do you tire of walking through windswept parking lots to approach sterile lobbies, ATM-style person-less ‘cashiers’, everywhere the same blue-carpets, over-priced unhealthy snacks, and relatively empty theatres? Alternatively does picking something from Netflix or other streaming services seem to offer the same level of mental nutrition that the centre aisles of the grocery store do? Does the selection, as vast as it may be, seem triflingly limited to what is available worldwide in the genre of film?

What BRAVE | Social Cinema offers:

  • Amazing films from around the world, that may have never had a box-office or festival run, and were made to make sense over money ~ irrespective of their *newness*
  • State of the art 4k UHD laser projection for intimate venues designed for ‘a group of friends’ that just happens to be zero-carbon (yes, our portable cinema equipment is solar powered!)
  • A range of viewing venues, from private homes, to schools, to black box theatres, to open fields, to geodesic domes
  • A place to meet, and share an experience, and talk about it afterwards over a drink or two
  • Pedestrian-friendly and accessible locations in the downtown core
  • Visual Education ~ Cinema that opens our eyes to people, places, cultures and ideas that may be unfamiliar to us, and that aims to unlock our biases

What BRAVE is not intended to offer:

  • Commercially lucrative, box office hits
  • Mass audience stadium style theatres with plush theatre seating
  • The same content found in Netflix, TIFF, BFF, etc. (unless it has been removed! another pet peeve of mine!)

By granting an effective monopoly in Canada to Cineplex in 2005 with the takeover of Famous Players, the competition board determined: “The Bureau is satisfied that with the implementation of the divestitures required by the Consent Agreement, the transaction is unlikely to result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition.” (https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/…/cb-bc.…/eng/01921.html).

But this is a kind of nuts because, hey, anyone can still compete with Cineplex if they want to, but they likely won’t be able to because it takes huge sums of money to do so. So by controlling almost all cinemas in Canada, and by aggressively shuttering independent theatres to drive traffic to their own venues, Cineplex now controls nearly 100% of the content, which means that MOST of the films I want to see never make it to a Cineplex screen.

Did you know that in 2014, “Cineplex Inc. acquired Barrie’s Bayfield Cinemas” just to limit competition and drive traffic to the Barrie North Cineplex? Did you even know there was a theatre in the Bayfield Mall? (I didn’t).

Cineplex has recently seen their shares drop as much as 47%. I don’t think this can be solely blamed on streaming at home. Cineplex has effectively numbed everyone with the monotony of their theatre design, the universally terrible food, and the utter failure to have any kind of human scale or social functionality in their acoustically ill-considered, strangely-lit lobbies.

The goal of BRAVE is to reclaim and revive the Social aspects of Cinema first, and possibly some years down the road, design and build a purpose-built, cafe & salon style cinema for Barrie to feature the rich diversity of the very best of international Cinema. BRAVE | Make Cinema Social Again!

We’ll post some concepts for Cinema Venue Design here in the coming months! * Financial data can be provided to sponsors and funding partners.

Barrie Creative

Thomson Architecture

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Scheduled Sunday Matinees

October 2022

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