Over the past few days, cinema lovers across Calgary have been thrown into disarray by some rather alarming news: the independent Plaza Theatre is on the verge of closure. According to local news reports from sources like CBC Calgary, the beloved Kensington fixture is facing its impending doom due to an inability to afford the costly transition to a digital projector. The response this has elicited from fans of the theatre has been tremendous, but as it turns out, it may have been a bit of an overreaction.
While it is true that the Plaza Theatre, known for screening independent films and Hollywood classics, cannot afford the $100,000 digital upgrade, it does not mean that the theatre will be closing down any time soon.
“I think the news was overblown,” says Logan Cameron, an employee at the Plaza. “There were some mixed words, and people may have got the wrong idea.”
Cameron, along with the other staff at the theatre, was just as surprised as everyone else to hear news of the Plaza’s impending closure.
“The media knew about it before we did, it was a real shock to us,” says Cameron. “When the news media showed up at the theatre we were all surprised.”
The upgraded projector will be needed to exhibit first-run Hollywood films, which are quickly abandoning the traditional 35 mm format in favour of digital hard drive distribution. However, this issue is more of a long-term concern for the Plaza Theatre than a pressing problem — the theatre can still exhibit 35 mm, DVD and Blu-ray formats. While the costly transition will eventually have to be made in order to avoid obsolescence, it is far from an immediate threat to the theatre’s existence.
Yet despite the problem not being as pressing as some may have believed, it still remains an obstacle the Plaza will eventually have to overcome. As for how the independent theatre will be able afford the upgrade, there is still a fair bit of uncertainty.
“Right now it’s up in the air,” says Cameron. “The owner of the Plaza is on vacation and we haven’t heard from him.”
One of the options available to the theatre is to raise funds through the devoted Calgarian film community, which has already began to show its support through the “Save The Plaza Theatre” online campaign. Hosted by the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo, the campaign was started by local photographer Benjamin Laird and burlesque artist Raven Virginia.
“We both saw the article at the same time, and we both started commenting about it on Facebook at the same time,” says Laird. “So we thought that maybe together we could do something about this.”
The campaign, which has a fundraising goal of $20,000, hopes to raise awareness of the Plaza Theatre’s plight while helping to begin funding the transition to a digital projector. Over $1,000 has been raised so far.
“For the purposes of this campaign, which is to test the waters to see how the community feels, we thought a $100,000 goal would be a little too ambitious,” says Laird. “It’s not like the Plaza is going to close tomorrow if something doesn’t happen. But this is an ongoing concern, and I felt like I needed to take the initiative and actually do something. Even if the only thing the campaign does is raise a little awareness and start some conversations, I think it would be worth the time.”
The 2011 closure of the Uptown Theatre left the Plaza as the only remaining independent theatre in Calgary. Because of this, it is easy to see why people would be concerned to hear the Plaza may be in danger. But while the initial reaction to the news may have been slightly overblown, it does not mean Calgarian film fans should sit idly by. The Plaza Theatre can only exist if the community continues to show its support, and there is no better way to do that than to head down to Kensington and see a film.
“You don’t have to look too far to find films playing on a big screen with vibrating chairs and 3D, but these independent theatres are rare,” says Laird. “If we take these places for granted, they’re likely to disappear.”
For more information about the Save The Plaza Theatre campaign, visit indiegogo.com/savetheplaza