BEHIND THE SCENES

Friends of the Broadway Theatre, Inc. (1993) is a non-profit, community-based organization, with charitable status. The organization is dedicated to the preservation and renovation of the historical Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and to its promotion as a mid-size venue for film and live performances.

Mission

The Mission of the Friends of the Broadway Theatre is to serve the arts and entertainment interests of the public by offering film and live performance in a community-owned and -operated heritage building. The Broadway Theatre is a thriving and vibrant community arts centre that respects diversity and inspires cultural awareness.

Objectives

  • to preserve this heritage-designated facility, the only cinema house dedicated for independent, repertory film, foreign and domestic, in Saskatchewan and one of only 7 remaining in Canada;

  • to promote the Theatre as a multi-faceted community centre;

  • to support the Canadian film industry by maintaining Saskatoon's only venue for the screening of quality independent Canadian film by local and national artists;

  • to provide Saskatoon with an appropriate mid-size (430 seats with six wheelchair spaces) facility for live performances by local, regional, and international artists

    • who would not otherwise come to the community,
    • who are emerging onto the popular scene and therefore cannot fill a larger auditorium; and/or
    • who prefer the intimate atmosphere created by this community Theatre.

History

Built in 1946, the Broadway Theatre provided the Nutana Community in Saskatoon with popular movies of the day. In addition, some live musical performances were organized on a stage in front of the movie screen. The Theatre operated in this capacity for almost forty years, eventually becoming an "adult movie theatre."

In 1984, the Theatre was given a new lease on life when it was turned into a repertory movie house and live performance facility. This use of the Theatre became very popular with its patrons and the community at large, and remained so for the next decade.

The entire community was shocked and saddened when the Theatre was forced to shut its doors on August 2, 1993. Its closure received wide media coverage, even making the front page of the Globe and Mail.

The community responded with a campaign to re-open and purchase the Theatre. After several public meetings, a planning committee was struck and the Friends of the Broadway Theatre, Inc., was formed. Community support for this initiative was clearly demonstrated when 4500 people purchased membership discount cards by the end of October, 1993. What makes this response even more poignant was that these memberships were purchased despite the fact that there was no guarantee the Theatre would be able to re-open!

Since 1993, The Broadway, now community-owned and operated, has continued to operate with a strong membership base of 1500-2000 despite urgent renovation requirements (i.e. the need for a new heating system, sprinkler system, new seats, etc.) and the large capital debt related to the purchase of the building.

The Friends of the Broadway Theatre, Inc. strives to find ways to make maximum use of the facility. The Theatre functions primarily as a repertory cinema, but also promotes local performance and talent initiatives. It is the primary stage during the annual Broadway Comedy-Busking Festival and a major venue for the Saskatoon Fringe Festival. As well, the Broadway Theatre is the home of the Flicks International Children's Film Festival and the Saskatoon Soaps Improvisational Theatre Troupe, as well as a primary venue for local school plays, community group fundraisers and ethnic film festivals.

Film

The Broadway Theatre offers a unique product as one of only 7 film houses remaining in Canada that feature domestic and foreign independent and repertory product. There is only one other similar theatre in Saskatchewan: the Regina Public Library (a city-owned facility which seats only 109 & room for 5 wheelchairs).

The Broadway Theatre already has regional and national recognition for its active participation in Canada's burgeoning film industry; further, it has an important role to play in the development of Saskatchewan and Canadian film:

  • As a result of our varied programming, our audience has a keen appreciation for quality international film, a key ingredient in the development of the Saskatchewan motion picture industry as it attempts to develop globally as well as within the North American market.

  • The Theatre has established a strong relationship with the distributors of Canadian film which is important for the promotion of the Saskatchewan film and television industry and for its connection to national and international product, producers, and distributors.

  • Likewise, the Theatre's ability to present commercial screening opportunities for both Saskatchewan and Canadian feature films and the resulting research and development benefits to Saskatchewan filmmakers and producers are essential services provided by the Theatre.

  • The Broadway Theatre fills a niche by providing a consistent and independent venue for provincial, regional, national, and even international festivals of film (most mainstream facilities are tied to North American distributors; 95% of films shown in Canada are American).

  • A strong film industry has important economic benefits; it also contributes to the building of a strong Canadian national identity, vital in an environment largely dominated by American Hollywood product. Support for the Theatre means support for a unique bastion of Canadian culture.

Live Performance

The Broadway Theatre is also well-known as a mid-size venue (430 seats with 6 wheelchair spaces) for local, national and international artists. The rehearsal and production schedules at Castle Theatre and Persephone Theatre, the most comparable venues in Saskatoon, typically do not allow for musical performances. Because regular performance is essential to the continued growth of these artists, a regular exhibition platform in the province will assist live performers in making contact with a broader audience.

A Window on the World

Due to its prime location, unique history and its commitment to cultural entertainment, the Broadway Theatre has the potential to promote the many facets of Saskatchewan's multi-cultural community. The Theatre provides diverse programming for people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and special needs, and promotes the use of the Theatre by many cultural and social organizations for special screenings, ethnic film festivals, and special events (i.e. concerts). As such, the Theatre is at once a community cultural centre and a window on the world.

Research Report

Last Summer CUISR (Community - University Institute for Social Research) prepared a research report: The Broadway Theatre Membership Assessment by Cameron Moneo, Maria Basualdo, Isobel M. Findley and Wendy MacDermott. We held a "Brown Bag Lunch" in August and now the report is available online. To download the report follow this link.