Did you know that Sudbury, Ontario, has one of the country’s most exciting film programs? Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op initially formed as a community response to losing the last remaining movie theatre in the downtown core—and now they are celebrating their 10th anniversary!
Sudbury Indie Cinema has an admirable remit to program films that address gaps in representation and better reflect the communities in their region: Over 30% of their titles are French language, 10% are Indigenous-themed, over 50% are directed by women and 25% are Canadian. Those are some impressive metrics!
Sudbury Indie Cinema is member-owned. Alongside a diverse and interesting program, they also make their space open for community events, all while serving GMO-free popcorn in compostable containers.
Tell us about Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op:
Sudbury Indie Cinema will be celebrating its 10th anniversary since incorporating next month. Our not-for-profit co-operative was initially formed as a community response to losing the last remaining movie theatre downtown.
For many years we programmed pop-up style in a variety of downtown locations from churches, to libraries, galleries, and school auditoriums. Our focus was on independent cinema, specifically Canadian, docs, and foreign film—bringing films that otherwise would bypass Sudbury.
- 2015: Launched WomenInFilmWednesday a monthly showcase of women-directed films.
- 2016: Launched Queer North Film Festival: The region’s only 2S-LGBTQ+ film festival.
- 2017: Launched Junction North International Documentary Film Festival: The region’s largest dedicated documentary film festival.
- 2019: Re-purposed a former school gymnasium in a defunct school into a state-of-the-art digital single screen movie house. Our programming grew 10-fold overnight. We had been up and running for almost exactly one year in our own space when COVID dictated the first of many extended closures and restrictions: nevertheless, we persisted.
- 2019: Launched First Peoples Thursday: An Indigenous themed film series.
- 2019: Launched #SamediCinema: A monthly series for francophones and francophiles.
- 2021: Launched Les petites vues: Family-friendly French language animated film series.
- 2021: Launched SOAR Film Fest: The region’s first and only outdoor adventure wilderness film festival.
- 2022: Launched STUFF, which stands for Sudbury’s Tiny Underground Film Festival.
- 2023: Launched a Celebration of Studio Ghibli: A curated three-day film festival.
What makes Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op unique?
We are member-owned, and we seek to make our space open for community groups and community issues.
There are two commercial chains in Sudbury; we are distinct by playing everything outside of Hollywood. We also aim to program films that address gaps in representation, and that better reflect the communities in our region. Thus: over 30% of our titles are French language, 10% are Indigenous-themed, over 50 % are women-directed, and 25 % of our selections are Canadian films.
What sort of films do you show?
Arthouse, docs, genre and retro classics.
What are Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op’s greatest challenges?
Financial: we are struggling to reach the sustainable model that reflects and protects our mission while we cobble together the right combination of earned revenue to donations to public funding. Many of our expenses are racketed up 30% in the 5 years since we opened. While our earned revenue has also doubled from 2022 to 2023 there is still a significant gap to meet our costs.
What are your favourite compliments that Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op receives from your audience?
How friendly, knowledgable, and passionate the staff are.
What’s a memorable film screening or event you hosted?
Recalling the day we opened our venue to the public in February 2019 to a documentary film festival. The chairs for the cinema was lost in a snow storm out west—and so the audience sat in the stands like they were bleachers. We are were packed and it was quite a riot with people bringing blankets and cushions.
What are your most popular concession items?
We aim for a zero waste facility, and we were beautifully mentored in this regard by the good folks at Hot Docs to source compostable single use products.
Our GMO-free popcorn is #1.
What projects are you considering for the future?
Like many other indie cinemas, we too have found that film events—especially throwbacks—bring in a crowd, especially the under 40s. So, most of our internal discussions are how to grow those film events while preserving our arthouse programming.
Tell us about yourself; how did you get your start in film exhibition?
I started out organizing showcases of larger festivals in Sudbury. Eventually this morphed into selecting films.