Thursday, 28 March 2013 14:59

Saratoga Film Forum Contemplates Future of Organization

By Chelsea DiSchiano | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Dozens of members and supporters of the Saratoga Film Forum showed up to a special meeting March 27 to discuss the future relevance of the organization as it prepares to compete with the downtown location of Bow-Tie Cinemas, scheduled to open later this summer.

The meeting was led by Amy Godine, president of the nonprofit organization, and moderated by Dale Willman of Saratoga Wire. 

Godine said the problem with Bow-Tie Cinemas moving in doesn’t have to do with its location or the forum’s lack of digital capacity—the main issue is that if Bow-Tie wants to show an indie movie on its first run, the Saratoga Film Forum (SFF) will have to wait until after the theatre is done showing it before they can have the rights to screen the movie. 

“We cannot compete,” Godine said. “Once they book a film, we don’t have access. For instance, in this March/April series, if we take away the classics, documentaries and our other film forum events, there are only nine movies left—and seven of those nine would screen in Bow-Tie.”

Godine explained that there would be no dishonor in calling it a day for the Film Forum after 20 successful years, but after polling the audience it became clear that almost everyone in attendance wanted to see the film forum remain intact despite the new competition. 

Three big questions remained: What can the SFF bring to the table that Bow-Tie can’t? Will there be community support for this niche? How can supporters make the SFF sustainable and affordable? 

The Film Forum, which gains the most profits from screening popular indie films, will lose most of its revenue when Bow-Tie moves in and they no longer have the rights to screen those films. 

One option the Film Forum has is to rent out a screen in the Bow-Tie theatre and split the profits with the company. But the SFF won’t be able to use the theatre on weekends or weekday afternoons—leaving only weeknights to use the space, which is not a feasible option for many members. 

Another option suggested was to partner with Proctors and Universal Preservation Hall and use the downstairs space at UPH to screen films. Some of the problems members found with that option are the poles in the space that would obstruct views, as well as the dark, basement-like feel of the room. 

Many attendees were in favor of remaining at the Saratoga Arts Center, but were unsure of how to make enough money to continue renting out the space. 

There was also some debate between the audience on whether or not the organization should take advantage of partnering with Bow-Tie or not.

“If we leave our longtime theatre space, we exacerbate our identity crisis,” Godine said. “Will we be invisible in our new corporate home?”

David Howson, a board member of Saratoga Arts, said he thinks the Film Forum should take advantage of working with Bow-Tie. 

“Bow-Tie has developed this great market, and I think you’re better off working with them than against them,” Howson said. “I encourage you to take advantage of the audience that is here, because it is here—it’s just not tapped, and I think you can ride on that somehow.”

Other supporters disagreed, asking what would happen if Bow-Tie suddenly decided to discontinue the partnership after realizing how low the profits from SFF are. 

“They can change their mind about us in one year, and then the Film Forum would have to start over again in finding a new home,” one supporter said. 

Several other ideas were brought up on how to continue making revenue in new ways, including becoming a more discussion and panel-oriented organization; showing local filmmakers’ short films before screening feature films; using streaming services to stream lectures and other media; creating bigger-draw events like large film festivals, and screening more niche films and foreign films. 

No decisions were made at the meeting, but the Saratoga Film Forum will continue brainstorming and discussing ideas on how to stay relevant in the future. To learn more about the film forum’s mission, visit the website at www.saratogafilmforum.org.

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