What are some of the best lessons you've learned since opening your cinema?
No one knows anything! Despite our best efforts to predict what films our audience will respond to - we all make mistakes with respect to programming. Creating a 'festival vibe' is important at our cinema (by having guests, panels, and live or skyped Q&As); creating our own series and mini-festivals helped to grow revenues when first run titles were soft; selling memberships at the box office 'point of purchase' is very successful; creating smart and easy to understand membership levels; being friendly and accessible is critical; partnering with other festivals and community groups and NGO's helps bring new audiences to our cinema (we offer 1 free screening to sister organizations each month).
What advice would you give to others hoping to open a doc cinema in their community?
Talk to us! We're happy to share our best practices and lessons learned. But - make sure your budget is realistic and that revenues exceed your expenses! Build your community. They are your best asset. Understand your identity and what makes you stand out from the other cultural offerings in your city or town. Offer the best and most personal experience – from online, to ticketing, to concessions, to pre-show, to event follow-up.