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Curtain closes on Vernon Film Society

After a successful run of 37 years, the society is no longer running
Left to right: Chuck Wills, Linda Wills, Katie Daughtry, Mike Takahashi, Dave Brennan, Ginny Enns, Lyle Enns of the Vernon Film Society. The society shut down in June 2021 after 37 years. (Submitted photo)

After a successful run of 37 years, the curtain has closed on the Vernon Film Society.

The storied history of the society began in 1983, when the registered non-profit started playing 16 mm films at Okanagan College, showing classic movies like Tom Jones, The Deer Hunter and the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Among the stories from the early years was the night they played the 1938 Russian film Alexander Nevsky, only to find out the distributor had sent the Russian version without subtitles. Refunds were quickly made, but six enthusiastic patrons stayed to watch the movie with a Russian speaker translating aloud.

As time went on, 16 mm films became less often used, and in 1992 the society moved to the Towne Theatre in downtown Vernon where they were able to show 35 mm films. They stayed there until the theatre closed and then moved to Polson Place Cinemas for about two years.

The moved back into the newly reopened Towne Theatre in 2001 and stayed there until 2018, when they once more moved to the Galaxy Theatre to make use of its stadium seating and convenient parking.

The society has been associated with the Film Circuit — a division of the Toronto International Film Festival — since 1999, and made the top 10 for attendance across Canada on many occasions.

For years the society ran films twice weekly and held festivals in the fall and spring, with proceeds going towards the Hospice House, Japanese Cultural Centre, Vernon Public Art Gallery, Allan Brooks Nature Centre, Alzheimer’s Society and Vertigo Art Gallery, among others. When the old projectors at the Towne Theatre fizzled out, the society donated $10,000 to help purchase new digital equipment.

A joint venture with the Vernon Art Gallery led to the creation of Videoscape, a video rental outlet where the society purchased DVDs and the art gallery took care of the business. About 900 DVDs from 57 different countries were recently donated to another local non-profit, Vernon Friends of the Library, who have been selling them at their parking lot sales in Coldstream.

Upon its dissolution in June 2021, the society’s remaining funds were donated to film study programs at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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