Friends of The Screening Room raise over $100,000 for local indie theatre

Owner of The Screening Room sits down with The Journal

Thanks to Kingston movie-lovers, The Screening Room is in a position to weather the pandemic.

The Kingston community recently rallied together to save beloved independent movie theatre, The Screening Room.

Through its Friends of the Screening Room campaign, the theatre raised over $100,000 to sustain itself in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with The Journal, owner Wendy Huot discussed the fundraiser.

According to Huot, the money is being used to cover losses from last year, when the theatre closed its doors for four and a half months, and to prepare the business for the upcoming year. The Screening Room has been closed since the latest province-wide lockdown began.

A major component of the campaign was its Sponsor a Seat option. For $250, fans of the theatre could get an inscription of their choice engraved in plaques on the back of the seats.

 “Some people have their names engraved, some in dedication or memory of a loved one, and some people put inspiring or funny movie quotes,” Huot said.

Not only did Sponsor a Seat raise money, Huot said it gave The Screening Room even more character—especially because many local Kingston businesses decided to participate in the campaign.

“I think people will enjoy coming to see a movie and reading all these different plaques,” Huot said. “It makes it that much more of a local Kingston community experience.”

Huot also sold 22 gold membership cards for $1,000 each, which guarantee unlimited free movies for the next three years, and a variety of gift passes to use when the lockdown lifts.

The Screening Room offers a more personal experience than larger movie theatres. The independent theatre opts to play more arthouse, indie, foreign, and low-budget productions. Last year, The Screening Room was sought out by numerous movie-lovers when it screened Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar winning film, Parasite.

However, the pandemic has taken a toll on the theatre, especially after the first four-month lockdown in 2020. But COVID-19 may have merely accelerated the decline of theatres. Huot noted that movie-going is becoming an increasingly niche experience. 

Read More: A weird, uncanny thing’: Wendy Huot talks The Screening Room going dark during quarantine

“The culture of movie-going is on ice right now,” Huot said. “Movies being released aren’t even coming out in movie theatres. Business is slow and we were losing money even when we were open.”

Still, she looks forward to the day she can safely open her doors again.

“Once vaccinated, I think people will be more comfortable coming to the movies,” said Huot.

“It will be interesting to see what the next huge movie will be—the movie you have to see at The Screening Room. I’m excited to see what it will be.”

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