If you have come to the Forum to see a film this fall, you know that our movie attendance is down, pretty significantly. Overall, our attendance has steadily declined since Bow Tie opened.
The purpose of this letter is not to criticize another theater; it is to let you know how we intend to address our current situation. The film business is changing and consolidating. Very few theaters have a single screen any more; more and more, film distributors require “open-ended” engagements for popular films. In other words, you can’t book many newer films if you’re not willing to run them indefinitely.
Saratoga Film Forum runs a pretty lean organization. But our primary expenses – theater rental, movie rental and projection – are such that we don’t break even until about 135 people see a film each weekend (over three screenings). That’s a minimum of 45 people each and every screening on our typical Thursday, Friday, Sunday schedule. This fall, we tried some expanded screenings: two showings on some nights, some Saturday events. That gave us some boost, but not nearly enough. If you have come to films this fall, or last spring, you know we are not reaching those levels.
This does not mean that we are giving up; our entire board believes there is an important spot for independent cinema in our region, with curated films, speakers and special events. That is why we are going to take a hiatus for a few months from business-as-usual. The hiatus will allow us to schedule meetings and discussions with community members – both frequent patrons, and those who rarely come. It will allow our board to generate new options and ideas and test them out. Finally, we intend to hold special events at least monthly. We also have a newly convened Documentary committee, and that committee is looking at new options and formats.
We understand that those of you who bought memberships may be particularly concerned. If you are a member at any level, we will “pause” your membership and re-start it when we have a clearer path. If you bought a membership this fall, and want a refund, we will do that. Above all, we hope to maintain the trust and respect of our community as we evaluate our options.
If you are interested in getting involved in re-shaping our future, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your involvement and ideas.
Carol Maxwell, Saratoga Film Forum Board President