Summer festival brings movies to Centretown

By Bryony Vander Wilp

Ellen Hagerman hopes that by this summer Centretown residents will be sitting together, eating popcorn and enjoying a good movie.

Hagerman is one of 30 volunteers for Centretown Movies, a group dedicated to creating a summer film festival.

“It’s just celebrating that we’re together,” she says.

The festival, to be held in July, August and possibly September, will offer weekly screenings in an outdoor theatre. Hagerman thinks the “different experience” of an outdoor theatre will draw people to the festival. She also says they’re planning to make the festival free or donation only to encourage people to come out.

The summer festival will show movies with a broad appeal such as classic films like Casablanca or camp-classics like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, Hagerman says they want to open the theatre for more screenings if local ethnic groups or community groups wish to view a particular movie.

The project was launched after several Centretown theatres closed, including Phoenix theatre, which burned down.

“This is kind of rising from the ashes,” laughs Hagerman.

The group received a big boost toward achieving its goal with a grant of $68 000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Foundation, an agency of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Recreation, works with community groups giving grants and support to help promote healthy and sustainable communities.

Lucie Goulet, program manager for the Ontario Trillium Foundation, says the easy access of the film festival sold Trillium on the idea.

“We liked that people could sort of just walk in,” says Goulet. “It’s an area that used to have a glorious past. Hopefully this will bring some vitality back.”

Another big supporter of Centretown Movies is City Councillor Elisabeth Arnold.

“It’s a project that brings a cultural element to the downtown, that helps add to the vibrancy of the downtown,” she says. “It’s a creative use of our urban space.”

Arnold provided a letter of support to the Trillium Foundation for the grant application and continues to help by addressing the issues of city by-laws, such as sound regulations, and encouraging businesses to back the festival.

“The project fits into the downtown revitalization project making it a better place to work and live in,” says Arnold.

The grant money will be used to purchase equipment, rent films, place advertisements and hire a co-ordinator once the festival is in place.

As a condition of the Trillium grant, Centretown Movies must become self-sustaining within two years. Hagerman says they will ask corporations and local businesses to sponsor the project so that the cost of maintaining the festival will not fall entirely onto Centretown residents.

The Bank Street Business Improvement Board, of which Arnold is a member, has thrown its support behind Centretown Movies by providing a reference to the Trillium Foundation.

Executive Director Gerry LePage says when the board was first approached by Centretown Movies, the idea “captured our imagination.” The board was intrigued by the idea of a family-oriented evening event. He says the board hopes to continue supporting the festival in anyway possible.

Centretown Movies is scouting for locations but has not found one yet.

Hagerman says there is a lot of enthusiasm among the volunteers and hopes that enthusiasm will spread to the rest of the community.

“It’s a chance to get to know your neighbours,” she says.

The group is looking for more volunteers. Anyone interested can e-mail them at: