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Sudbury arthouse cinema The Indie fundraising for a sign

Film-lovers, unite! Indiegogo campaign ends Feb. 6

The only arthouse cinema in northeastern Ontario is hoping the public can pitch in to give it a sign. Sudbury Indie Cinema — a.k.a. The Indie — has been in operation for two years and while it’s been nice to be the secret-your-friend-knows-hole-in-the-wall-guerilla-underground theatre, they figured it’s time to put a sign on the building so people know where it is.

An Indiegogo campaign to put a sign on the place is about halfway to its fundraising goal and the Indie is hoping the public can help push it through to the end. You can find the campaign here, where you can also see a video of Beth Mairs, lead programmer in conversation with editor Mark Gentili.

“The Indie has done a great job as literally the hole-in-the-wall, the venue down the lane, with no sign at the door,” lead programmer and all-around driving force Beth Mairs said in a news release. “But to grow, more street-level visibility is an important next step in our COVID-recovery.”

In their second year of operation, the cinema has been forced closed for most of it. However, they had a window of opportunity to be open to the public late last summer and into December, for a total of 20 weeks. 

Making good use of the limited time and limited space imposed by pandemic restrictions, The Indie were quickly back to a full schedule of 50-60 screenings per month, though regulations meant house numbers were reduced to 25-per-cent capacity. 

Always creative, The Indie space was offered up to other local arts organizations who were looking for performance and rental space with so many venues closed, so when not showing movies the theatre was used for public performances, fundraising events and more.

“After-all, the cinema had been conceived of and designed with a multi-purpose arts potential in mind, with part of the vision being the Indie could serve as an arts hub for emerging arts groups.”

One of the groups that took advantage of the available space was Sudbury Symphony Orchestra. Board chair Salley Lesk was happy to partner with The Indie.

“Indie Cinema was a gracious partner in helping us to maintain our visibility in the community and raise some much-needed funds in this strange time,” Lesk said. “The Sudbury Symphony was not only grateful, but thrilled. To have the opportunity to present small-ensemble performances in a way that was safe for attendees and musicians alike: what a treat to experience live music once again!”

Over 20 weeks, the Indie hosted 50 such collaborations through public arts events, many film-related, but they also ran the gamut from musical performances to live theatre, spoken word, story-telling, improv and artist talks across a range of disciplines.

Indeed, for a unique period of time, during a pandemic, some would say the Indie served not just as an arts hub but as the cultural hub of the city. 

Katherine Smith is the acting executive director of Jazz Sudbury, and has also had a long and varied career in small theatre. 

“Leave it to Indie Cinema to be the one to rise to the occasion and create something really special for the arts community during such hard times. It really shows that the true heart of the organization IS community. It would be really great to see that same support rallied back at them.”

Sudbury Indie Cinema is still in the start-up phase itself, and back in 2019, when the doors opened, like many new enterprises, the renovations went over-budget and over-schedule. Some expenses had to be postponed, one of which was signage. It took a bit of time but the cinema has launched the crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo to cobble the funds together to get a sign over their door.  

With ten days left, the cinema hopes to mobilize donations from supporters and well-wishers to reach their goal of $6,000.