I am one of those hard-nosed, practical, logical people… yeah, the kind of pompous jerks the more emotional types like to throw foam bricks at…
But, at least I have a sentimental streak… and there is lots of room in my life for nostalgia. When I do manage to find some elusive free time, that is one of my indulgences.
I should have been working this past weekend… and shirking my duties will likely catch up to me in a matter of days, if not hours, but I live in Vancouver and weekend the Ridge Theatre was closing.
The guys who own the Ridge have always been cool… and because of that, they are not going out with a whimper – but with a bang. A film festival of sorts! I really wanted to go every night but I do have a serious job and it does pay for my serious travel habit so I had to constrain myself but this was the last weekend and I had to be in that theatre at least once before it was all over…
As is likely obvious, I have a lot of history… with people, with cities, with buildings… I’m not quite sure where it comes from… this hyper-awareness of my part in the history of the world, small though it might be.
We are all part of it. We all make history. And I think it keeps us grounded – and relevant – to recognize it.
For me, the Ridge didn’t really begin there… it began with Mike… and the Bloor Cinema in Toronto… and being a poor student. I can’t remember the exact price anymore but you could buy a pass to the networks of cinemas of which the Bloor was part and see second run films for less than the price of a draft beer… I think beer was $1 and a second run film was 99 cents 🙂
That’s how I discovered Woody Allen… how I argued with Mike that Eraserhead was stupid – but started following David Lynch… how I learned that the cinema was full of ideas… and garbage… and you would have to wade through it… but how rich that experience would be… without Mike and the Bloor I would never have seen Koyaanisqatsi… or learned about Philip Glass… go see it, people, and see Al Gore for the gas-guzzling charlatan that he really is…
Media can be so powerful… but sadly is largely controlled by alpha male buffoons… so be careful what they are trying to brainwash you to believe…
Oh yes, the media and truth… My first film at the final Ridge fest was Argo. I have been wanting to see it since its opening night – so figured I could be nostalgic – AND see a film I really wanted to see for $5 on the big screen!
It’s really worth seeing. But, as a Canadian who at the time was a big Carter supporter and aware of current events, I was curious how the film story would go down… Apparently not so realistically… the drama is great for film. But, in the realpolitik of the 21st century, there is something to be said for Canadians – who are actually great at diplomacy, willing to do their homework and more concerned about the collective good than the glory. It’s how we (all of us, not just Canadians :)) will save the world. Sorry, CIA 😉
But, for me, it wasn’t really about Argo... it was about the Ridge. I can’t remember my very first visit. But I first moved to Vancouver in 1985 and it has been part of my life since then. I saw a lot of films there. I saw cool special events like weekends full of animation – or great advertising from all over the world.
But the way the Ridge became a place where I felt at home was courtesy of the Vancouver Film Festival. I also started that courtesy of Mike, sitting in gritty suburban cinemas with uncomfortable seats and floors that always seemed sticky with decades of discarded fluids that could never be entirely eliminated.
But you didn’t come for the ambience 🙂 You came to have your young mind twisted and stretched by great art – and poseurs… eventually you learned to tell the difference 😉
One of those cinemas was the Ridge. It might have mattered just because of that but years after Mike and I broke up, I was still going to the Ridge and began volunteering at the Vancouver Film Festival because I really believed in the power of cinema to change the world.
The first night I volunteered we made The Vancouver Sun because there was a mini-riot due to bad planning and administrative procedure. But, at the time, there was a serious recession going on in Canada, and I was unemployed, and happy to be trying to stem the floodgate of disgruntled patrons to prove to myself I still had employable skills…
That first year I floated between Vancouver Centre (the riot locale) and the Ridge. In those days, the Ridge was suburbia, despite being about a five minute drive from the center of the city. And Louise ran the Ridge. It’s been a few decades so I am going to say she was Scottish… She was definitely a Celtic woman with attitude – and principles.
I guess these days you would call it a girl crush. I just wanted to grow up and be like Louise 🙂 Because she was commanding, fair and charismatic. No matter what happened (and a film festival is a bunch of artsy prima donnas trying to do something that requires business-like precision so lots happened!) she was always cool and resourceful. And she protected us. And tried her best to give the patrons the best theatrical experience.
My years at the Ridge were critical to my human development. Louise was the boss I aspired to be. She knew how to manage both up and down the chain – and if you were ready for a challenge…
It is one of my most vivid memories… I think it was because the Festival Director hired his girlfriend… or some such nonsense that is the stuff of real life… in any event, we had a sold-out show for Europa, Europa but had instead been sent Europa. What’s one missing Europa you ask?
That’s what Louise was afraid of. I saw them both and would highly recommend you do the same. But the audience looking for Europa, Europa might not be as keen on Europa. And Louise knew that… I can’t remember exactly how many people you can fit into the Ridge – but it was the largest cinema on the festival circuit – and there were over 500 seats… so the lineup could be several blocks long and everyone would still get in…
So that night I walked the line and explained to over 500 people that they weren’t going to be seeing the film they had signed up for but the new one was equally compelling… but we would refund anyone who was disappointed, no questions asked. We had to stay in the lobby to see what happened and process refunds. I think maybe 5 people asked for refunds.
Louise was a master. Be upfront with your customers and manage your customer relationships with honesty. Evaluate your team and set them up for success by assigning them to the roles to which they are suited. Be the boss but don’t be afraid to be one of the team when it can be strategically deployed to strengthen your organization.
Louise was an artist. So I doubt she realized she was teaching me business lessons. But she was a Scot and genetically predisposed to organization? In any event, she inspired loyalty. Once I discovered Louise, I always asked to work at the Ridge. I wasn’t the only one who loved her so every year it was a bit like a family reunion. And Louise inspired the well-organized rebels… so the theatre ran well… we got to hang out in the Crying Room watching almost the entire film… and it was always over Canadian Thanksgiving so Louise would have pumpkin pie and we would eat it at the concession stand.
My final film at the Ridge (the theatre’s final as well!) was Midnight in Paris. I already saw it on a plane to Paris as my regular blog readers will recall 🙂 But it was a good film… and I discovered Woody Allen on the repertory film circuit so it was a poetic ending. And the film is about nostalgia, so hard to find a more perfect ending.
I took pictures like all the other nostalgia freaks 🙂 And peeked in to see if the Crying Room was still there. It was! It is quite possible you don’t know what I am talking about as it is the only cinema I have ever been to with such a room. It’s why there is something to be said about a 63 year old single screen suburban cinema. The Ridge let you bring your baby to the movies… and, if the baby started crying (or you thought it might), you could watch the film from the Crying Room. I think most people just figure their baby won’t be welcome at the movies so it was the place where we hung out during the film festival since we had to get the audience in and out of the cinema so could only watch the film while paying guests were happy and in their seats. Louise knew where we were and could come and grab us if she needed help.
The final night was quite emotional. They pretty much packed a huge cinema to see a film you could rent on DVD or see on an airplane. There was a short speech, lots of clapping and a standing ovation for the owner. I think it’s my first standing ovation in a movie theatre 🙂
In honour of the Ridge closing, I would encourage everyone to go and see a film on the silver screen. I’ve never been able to duplicate the visceral experience at home and will be a fan of the cinema as long as they exist…