It all started with an idea and a committee, then something special happened. Now this September, Markham at the Movies is celebrating a decade of bringing Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) shows to the Markham community.
Attendees call it one of the “best-kept secrets” for a night out for local, engaging and thought-provoking entertainment. But what sets the experience apart from typical mainstream cinema is the social community experience – the friendly welcome, meeting up with friends or making new ones, a glass of wine, winning prizes, special celebrations, and discussing and learning about the artistic merit of a film.
TIFF was founded in 1976 and later recognized that smaller communities were eager to see the Canadian, international and independent films that are showcased annually at the fall festival in Toronto. After successful trial runs in 10 northern Ontario cities, TIFF Film Circuit was created to introduce an outreach program to the rest of Canada. There are presently more than 170 locations in 150 communities that are part of the Film Circuit. In 2010, Markham’s Arts Council partnered with Film Circuit, to create Markham at the Movies to bring transformative experiences through award-winning films to Markham.
The beginnings were humble. An “Are you interested in films?” flyer posted to the community by Judi McIntyre, then director of the Markham Arts Council, drew 23 responses and grew into a mission statement — “to entertain and enlighten Markham audiences by showing quality Canadian and international films. Just seven months later, the first film, Metropolis, premiered with red carpet and tuxedos, bistro-style in the backroom of the Markham Theatre to an audience of 36. But film enthusiasts, arts lovers and film critics kept coming, and the audiences kept growing.
Today, Markham at the Movies presents on the main stage of the Flato Markham Theatre with audiences having grown to full-house capacities. It continues to be run by a group of volunteers and film enthusiasts, with three of the original founding members, Jean Stewart, Paul Sylvester and Pat Durst, still serving on the committee. Community sponsors collaborate to support the program screening “films that open hearts and minds”.
Film choices, made with the goal to entertain, enlighten and sometimes challenge audiences, are not typically screened at mainstream cinemas. Some of the popular and award-winning shows have been Maudie, Meditation Park, Loving Vincent, Faces Places and Puzzle. Movies are shown monthly, September through March, at the theatre and come with the benefits of free parking, comfortable seating, and a community of film lovers seeking a different film experience.
The audience is front and centre in everything that Markham at the Movies does, from the films chosen and experiences created to the communications patrons receive. And the community is taking note. Later this month, Markham at the Movies will receive a “Markham Performing Arts Award”, celebrating their contribution to the local arts community.
You are invited to share the experience at a screening during this 10th anniversary season starting September 24 with the film, Wild Rose.
Visit www.markhamatthemovies.com for more information.
Photo: Markham at the Movies launches its 10th anniversary season with the film, Wild Rose.