The Sunshine Coast Film Society has a problem, but it’s one any local society would love to have – it’s more than tripled its membership over the past six years. While that’s great news, it’s proving occasionally to be too much of a good thing, given the size of their primary venue.
“Our growth has exceeded the capacity of the Heritage Playhouse as a Gibsons venue, for a single screening,” society chair Doug Dyment said in an interview. “For the foreseeable future we’re going to do two screenings in Gibsons for every film that we show.”
As membership growth continued to increase in recent years – to more than 590 members, from 190 in 2012 – the society also booked screenings at Raven’s Cry Theatre in Sechelt. “Once we started doing that, it took a lot of pressure off Gibsons because people from Sechelt [and further north] could go see the films there,” Dyment said. “The auditorium at Raven’s Cry [274 seats] is about twice the size of the Playhouse [140 seats].”
However, as most of the membership appears to be from the Gibsons area, the addition of Raven’s Cry has not resolved the issue entirely. “It’s in Gibsons where it’s getting tight. We’ve only ever filled the Raven’s Cry once, so we’re not worried about running out of space there.”
Dyment believes it’s a change in the society board’s outlook that has led to the expansion. When he joined the board in 2012, he said, the two other theatres on the Coast, Raven’s Cry and Gibsons Cinema, as they still do, showed mainstream films for families and teenagers. The society’s practice was to show avant-garde, “arthouse” films, “interesting, but not necessarily designed to grab large audiences,” said Dyment. When he became board chair in 2013, he suggested a new approach.
“My view was that we should [program] films for grownups, the kind of films they’d like to see and would see if they lived in Vancouver but can’t see because they live here. We made that change, and just started showing films for grown-up people, with stories and plots and interesting actors,” he said. “Since we started doing that, the membership has been climbing.”
Dyment explained that a board committee meets twice a year to compile a list of about 15 potential films for the upcoming fall or winter-spring season. Eight eventually make the cut for each half of the year, for a total of 16 films annually.
The general public also can attend screenings if any space remains after members are seated. Annual memberships are $20, plus $4 for admission.
The brochure for the winter-spring 2020 film lineup will be published by the end of December, Dyment said.