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Indie Cinema meeting leaves founding director ‘optimistic’

Founding director and lead programmer of Sudbury’s Indie Cinema hopeful about future of region’s only art house theatre after announcement they will have to find a new space
Beth Mairs is the founding director of the Sudbury Independent Cinema Co-op. (File)

Though the Sudbury Indie Cinema will have to move it’s location after the building it was housed in was sold, Beth Mairs, lead programmer and former executive director of Sudbury Independent Cinema Co-op, told she is feeling optimistic about the theatre’s future after a membership meeting on May 13, held in their current space at 162 MacKenzie in downtown Sudbury. 

It’s a space they’ll have to vacate in less than a year, and the meeting was to inform the members of the co-op theatre, and to offer some next steps, said Mairs. 

“As you are likely aware, the building that houses the Indie has been for sale for some time and was recently sold,” said an April 29 newsletter to members of the cinema co-op.

“With the transfer of ownership of 162 Mackenzie, the Sudbury Independent Cinema Co-operative was notified that our current lease in the space will not be extended upon its conclusion in February 2025.” 

The cinema is located in the former gymnasium of Ecole St. Louis De Gonzagues, which at the time of the Indie’s opening was operated by Red Oak Real Estate of Red Oak Villa nearby Ste. Anne Road.

Since then, the building has changed hands, first to Dalron Leasing Limited, and in the most recent sale, to a numbered company, 2810373 Ontario Inc. The numbered company is owned by James Henderson and headquartered at 727 Lorne Street. The sign outside that building reads Minewise Technology, of which Henderson is listed as the general manager. 

But the challenge in moving forward to a new location, said Mairs, is that down time — time not bringing in money — could be the end of the Indie. That was the impetus for holding the members meeting: choosing a path for the future. 

The Indie’s board of directors told members at the meeting of the pros and cons of the potential new locations they had already investigated, before announcing the two spots that currently meet most of the cinema’s needs, Knox Hall, located at 73 Larch Street, and Thorneloe University’s Ernie Checkeris Theatre, located on the Laurentian University campus property. 

Possible new locations

At Knox Hall, the Indie would stay downtown, something Mairs said she believes is important. Film showings would likely occur from Sunday to Wednesday, with the concerts of Knox Hall filling the rest of the week. There is, however, a drawback to the space: it won’t fit their projector, which would leave them limited to the format of films they could show. They would also have to purchase a retractable screen. 

Though Thorneloe University isn’t in the downtown core, Mairs said it is a great location with plenty of space and a strong cultural history, having been Laurentian’s federated university offering courses in film and theatre. 

“It’s in their DNA to contribute towards the cultural life of Sudbury,” said Mairs, “And they have this beautiful, underused asset there in the theater.”

A key difference between the sites, said Mairs, is how the Indie Cinema could operate out of each of these locations. 

For instance, at Knox Hall, the cinema would be open around the current concert schedule. At Thorneloe, the Indie would become the tenant, meaning they would “be able to maintain the level of programming that we have now, operating seven days a week, as opposed to a part-time basis,” said Mairs. “That's quite significant. 

Both of these locations could see them moving in within months, said Mairs, which is the real appeal. A purpose-built or heavily renovated spot could see them needing a lead time of “up to three years” to get a space ready, and without the ability to stay open while the new theatre is prepared poses a big risk.  

With income based on what Mairs said is “50/50 sales and government funding,” downtime is not doable for the theatre. 

“We don’t have that leisure in terms of being able to stay put where we are for three years in order to make that ideal next move,” she said.  “We needed to look at spots that wouldn't cost a lot of money for the cinema to be up and running fairly quickly.”

Where it began

The official grand opening was June 23, 2019, but the idea for an independent theatre was born in early 2014: the Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op. 

The organization first brought 50-70 features to Sudbury annually, the majority Northern Ontario premieres with a focus on Canadian titles, documentary, and festival winners. Funding for their own location remained elusive until February 2018, when all three levels of government converged, making commitments toward the capital project.

The co-op re-purposed the former gymnasium of Ecole St. Louis De Gonzagues at 162 Mackenzie St. and opened their doors to regular programming in Feb. 2019. 

Renovations to the space cost $650,000, which Mairs said was partially funded by the original building owner. That investment made up $200,000 of the costs; on the Indie’s side, there was the investment in specific theatrical equipment, much of which is portable and can be reused, as well as $200,000 to turn what were the locker rooms and change areas of the former gymnasium  into the lobby, snack bar and washroom area of the Indie Cinema. 

Though they also faced hardship in fall of 2023, the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation came through with $60,000 in bridge support, and Mairs told Sudbury their annual fundraising drive exceeded its goal and the earned revenue in the past fiscal year was up 48 per cent over the previous.

But Mairs said while the new owner has renegotiated their rent, dropping it by 30 per cent until the lease ends, there is no getting away from the end date. 

After the meeting, members were directed to a survey they could fill out to share their views about the future of the cinema. If you are a member but do not have access to the survey, email [email protected] or visit their website at

Mairs said she was pleased with the warmth and passion of the people who came to the meeting to see how they could help, many from the early days of the theatre, and told she left it feeling very optimistic about the future of Sudbury Indie Cinema.

“The shift, where we go next, is significant, both within the immediate crisis, as well as having a long-term vision,” said Mairs. “And I'm really pleased with the response from our members.” 

She said there are always challenges, but from her perspective, the people moving into leadership roles, finding the new future for the cinema, make it a path worth walking. “I’m feeling pretty positive,” she said. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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