No Summer Plans? Try Cinéma Public.
By Lauren Dym
Summer is slowly approaching, and we are all undoubtedly itching to get out of the house, hang out with our friends and try new things. Although it's been a long and exhausting year indoors, the confinement of lockdown granted many people the time to create and innovate. That's what Aude Renaud-Lorrain and Roxanne Sayegh, the co-directors of the new boutique movie theatre Cinéma Public, were up to. The duo has created an online space for fellow film fanatics to watch movies together with summer plans for an in-person theatre with a twist.
Cinéma Public isn't your average theatre. The two co-directors are in the process of cultivating an environment where film fans can gather and socialize with each other over the film and beyond. With smaller theatres, this can be achieved. Creating a space that gives the audience a more interactive experience at the movies that includes snacks and creator panels where customers will have the opportunity to listen to filmmakers speak.
Over the last year, the Cinéma Public co-directors thought about how they could reinvent boutique-style movie theatres. "The pandemic was a good moment to rethink our business model, reposition ourselves, and become a leader in the transformation of the film offer," Aude says. Both women were co-directors at Cinéma Moderne, a boutique theatre they co-founded (with Alexandre Domingue) in 2018 located in Mile End. It "felt like the right moment to launch something new," says Roxanne about her new venture Cinéma Public.
Roxanne believes, "there are very few independent theatres in Montreal, and the network is not yet well established." Their goal is to bring a new cinema style into the limelight that encourages film enthusiasts all around Montreal to share their knowledge on film and build a community.
After deciding to part ways with Cinéma Moderne, Aude says she and Roxanne have "acquired a good expertise and wanted to use it to diversify the network of independent movie theatres in Montreal." The independent theatre business in Montreal is small, and the pandemic did not help. In comparison, "you can see the success of neighbourhood cinemas" in cities like Chicago, Boston and New York City, says Roxanne.
Though this is only the start, it's a strong one. The co-directors want to create a space that highlights storytellers and stays away from "more commercial" films by offering targeted programming. Aude says they "look for films that deserve to be seen." It's essential to both that they give a platform to films that deserve attention. For them, this means screening films like Minari directed by Lee Isaac Chung on their online platform. In a big movie theatre, the Indie gems will likely slip between the cracks, especially when Star Wars or Marvel movies are in town. At Cinéma Public, Aude says, the plan is to offer "an intimate experience" where "the public can meet the artists and vice versa." Making Cinéma Public the midpoint "between the public, creators and partners." Roxanne says.
Once the co-directors settle on a location for this summer, they "would like to create a space where the community gathers not just to see films but to discuss and create." With their forward-thinking, Aude and Roxanne plan to fill the gap in the independent theatre industry and change the model for Montreal's growing film community.
It's important to Aude and Roxanne to be a domain for unwatched filmmakers and storytellers. Being female co-directors of the theatre, they put an emphasis on female-created films. Aude says, "We have a large majority of films directed by women." Aude says her team "listens to the population and programs films that speak to them." In March 2020, they started an online program and hadn't stopped since. Roxanne says it's important "to maintain the link with the public and community of film lovers," which they have done successfully since the beginning of the pandemic.
As they strive "to connect with others, as well as develop projects on a human scale," Cinéma Public wants to reach its audience by giving them what they want to see. Nicole Dobin, a Cinema and Communications student at Dawson College, thinks "people will get way more out of this experience than a usual theatre." Nicole likes that Cinéma Public is building a community. Prioritizing the true love of film over anything else, Cinéma Public is growing a community of fellow film enthusiasts as they embark on a journey to change the theatre scene of Montreal.