Before there was a Quinte Film Alternative there was an ad in the Community press in 1995.
About a dozen people responded to that ad. Everyone was a film enthusiast who often attended the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). They drew on the knowledge and experience of a group from northern Ontario who had established a relationship with TIFF’s Film Circuit office.
Over many meetings these volunteers came up with our name, were recognized by Film Circuit, negotiated with the Bellestar 3 theatre and then chose their first film — somewhat raucously.
In January 1996 Quinte Film Alternative presented the American film BLUE IN THE FACE to its first very supportive audience.
Clearly not a blockbuster, the film and others that followed, was an example of “alternative”: foreign, funny, quirky, engaging and, for Belleville and area, available! In recent years our domestic film industry has matured but less so its access to audiences. QFA and others supported by Film Circuit are proud to fill that gap.
The QFA membership model assured financial stability and continuity from year to year so films could be booked in advance and promoted.
Having a theatre to show our films was considered essential from day one as films are a public art. Over the years our venues changed from the Bellestar to a theatre in the Quinte Mall which was superceded by the Famous Players 8 (now the Cineplex Galaxy). This multiplex could offer several screens if the QFA film sold out. A board member from those times remembers those nights like a scene out of a comedy with the board rapidly counting the cash receipts totally visible behind the glass walls of the Party room!
In 2002 Mark Rashotte restored the downtown McCarthy Theatre and invited QFA to be a permanent tenant in his Empire Theatre. Some years later QFA contributed to the installation of the high quality digital projector enhancing even more the joy of a theatrical experience.
In 2021 venues were shuttered but QFA found enough dedicated members to hang in with us (technology permitting) as we pivoted to streaming our films on line. With Film Circuit on hiatus we went to many of Canada’s film distributors on our own. We were welcomed and greatly assisted in this new world by those companies who extended themselves for our members’ benefit.
For many members the theatre experience is still where their heart is so our first film of the 2021-22 season (BEANS from Canada) was greeted with applause before it even screened.
However, it was obvious that love of unique films was warring with caution as Membership dropped.
Gremlins disrupted the projector in December and the COVID shutdown in January 2022 made us go dark again. But we and our distributors were back up in March with an ambitious Great Movie Wednesday EVERY week until June.
Memberships are slowly recovering but we’re in a new world where the big studios are supporting “Marquee Films”, audiences can choose to wait for streaming and the flow of our “alternative” films has been slowed.
We’re addressing some of our concerns with the help of a Resilient Communities Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for 2022-23.
In the end though, we’re still here. And, if you are new to us, we hope you will be too.
*For a list of our current Board of Directors, click here.