SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Film Forum has made the announcement this week that the non-profit will be taking a hiatus for a few months from its usual program and schedule.
Several factors were involved in making the decision to take the break. Attendance to the films was down significantly this fall, and has been steadily declining since the opening of Bow Tie Cinemas. The primary expenses, such as theater rental, movie rental and projection, are such that the Film Forum doesn’t break even unless about 135 people attend a film each weekend, which was nowhere near the attendance seen over the last two seasons.
“Our attendance was more than not good, it became really low. Unnaturally low. We’re trying to dig into that in addition to other factors in the film industry,” said Carol Maxwell, President of the Board at Saratoga Film Forum. “New films are going straight to Netflix and to other venues. It has a lot to do with the economics of the film distribution business.”
Another aspect is that the Film Forum is having trouble booking films because film distributors want them to be “open-ended engagements,” meaning the show must be on-going and able to run indefinitely.
“We’ve been taking a look at different formats, and we would have done it smoother and in a more gradual way, but we’ve been forced to address it front and center. Our goal is finding a niche that will be the most beneficial for the Film Forum and our audiences,” said Maxwell. “We know deep down there is a lot of interest in quality films that you just don’t get to see at the multiplexes.”
In order to better understand what the community wants, Maxwell is going to talk to many different people to get their take on the Film Forum and its future. She hopes to talk to loyal patrons of the Film Forum, as well as people who have never been there or used to go but then stopped going.
“This is a big town and a growing town so this is a great time to find out more about the community’s media habits and the emotions surrounding those habits. We’re trying to find out where we could connect with them,” Maxwell said.
The Film Forum may be taking a hiatus from business-as-usual but they will still be holding special events at least monthly. The goal is to make the events more enhanced through speakers and other activities. Recently, the Film Forum has initiated “meet the filmmaker” nights, which gives audiences the chance to ask questions and talk to the directors and producers directly.
In terms of the future, Maxwell is planning on more cross-collaborations with other organizations. For the release of Harper Lee’s latest book, “Go Set a Watchman,” the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Film Forum collaborated with Northshire Bookstore for a popular event that brought the two organizations together.
After she has a thorough, open dialogue with community members, Maxwell hopes that the Film Forum will be back to its usual programming by late spring.
Maxwell concluded positively: “Tell readers I said ‘We’ll see you soon.’”