Meet the only independent cinema in Prince Edward Island: City Cinema! Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and located in the heart of downtown Charlottetown, City Cinema shows a curated mix of repertory, independent and new Canadian titles year-round.
Operated as a social enterprise by the Charlottetown Film Society since 2019, the venue is a stalwart in the PEI arts scene with a significant and important legacy. In August 2022, Grace Kimpinski became the executive director of the Charlottetown Film Society and now supports City Cinema through her work.
What makes City Cinema unique?
City Cinema is a small cinema of only 72 seats located in the heart of downtown Charlottetown. We are the only independent theatre on Prince Edward Island. The first movie we showed was Strictly Ballroom on September 28, 1993, and have been in operation since. This means this fall we will be in our 30th year of operation, something that we are extremely proud of.
In 2019, the Charlottetown Film Society (a non-profit Canadian charity) purchased City Cinema and has been operating it as a social enterprise since. Our goal is for City Cinema to be a hub where community can gather for the study, appreciation and celebration of film and the moving image as culturally significant art forms.
Also, we use real butter. People love us for our popcorn because we have always, and will always, use real butter.
What sort of films do you show?
A little bit of everything. Occasionally we’ll bring in movies that are more mainstream, however, we often show more niche films that people want to see: the art films, the independent films, the foreign films, just good movies that for one reason or another don’t make it to the mainstream cinemas.
We also support local filmmakers, giving them an opportunity to show their movie to audiences in a public space.
What are City Cinema’s greatest challenges?
Licensing fees. Of course, we recognize that filmmakers need to be compensated for their work, but some movies’ fees are so cost prohibitive for us that, despite knowing we’d have an audience for a specific movie, it just doesn’t make financial sense for us to bring it in.
What are your favourite compliments that City Cinema receives from your audience?
People love our popcorn made with real butter. They love that we are small venue that brings in movies and hosts events they wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy elsewhere.
What’s a memorable film screening or event you hosted?
Just a couple of weeks ago we hosted a post-screening Q & A with the creative team of the makers of movie BlackBerry. Audiences loved it. They were hilarious and very generous with their time and input. The audience laughed a lot; the younger filmmakers got real, authentic, sound advice; and the folks who had a connection to RIM and/or Waterloo during the heyday of BlackBerry (the product) really appreciated the insights and approach the filmmakers took with the movie. It was a sold-out event that went on twice as long as I thought it would.
What are your most popular concession items?
Have I mentioned our popcorn with real butter? People love that.
What projects are you considering for the future?
We’re hoping to celebrate our 30 years throughout the entire year, so we are working on a “City Cinema Movie Memories” project right now. Additionally, we need a new projector, so doing some fund-raising for that is a priority for us.
Tell us about yourself; how did you get your start in film exhibition?
I’ve been working in the non-profit/event planning world for most of my adult life. I’ve always been a lover of movies and have been a fan of City Cinema for as long as I can remember. The executive director position for The Charlottetown Film Society came up and it seemed like a great fit for me. I’ve been here for less than a year, and it has been challenging learning some of the ins and outs of how cinemas work, but it is something I’ve really enjoyed.