The Israeli film festivals in both Montreal and Toronto are seeking new permanent homes after Cineplex Entertainment advised them they could no longer use the theatres in both cities where they have been for eight and five years respectively.
Although the Montreal festival has already found a new venue – in Cinema Guzzo instead of the AMC Forum where it had been previously – the organizer of the Montreal fest suggested Cineplex’s decision may spell curtains for the festivals.
“Since Cineplex owns so many cinemas in both Montreal and Toronto, their decision could mean that the festival in both cities is over,” said Marie Pregent. “It isn’t easy to find a place with a high-quality screen that is well located. It’s almost impossible to find a place that we can afford.”
While the Montreal fest runs in April, the Toronto fest is in October, so organizers in Toronto still have considerable time to find a new venue as a replacement for its previous location in the Sheppard Grande Cinema at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue.
Both festivals were founded by Tel Aviv businessman Eran Bester, who described Cineplex’s emailed notification to him as “shocking and very disappointing.” The company explained it had done an assessment of its “long-term relationships with certain film festivals” and determined not to renew the arrangement with the Israeli Film Festival. Cineplex declined to provide any further details to festival organizers.
In an email exchange with The CJN, Cineplex spokesperson Mike Langdon said the company’s decision not to renew the annual arrangement was “a business decision and a result of challenges working with the organizer.”
While Langdon would not divulge if arrangements with any other film festival had also been terminated, he said Cineplex “is a proud supporter of many Jewish and Israeli festivals and charities, including the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Jewish Windsor Film Festival, Walk with Israel, the Canadian Friends of Israel Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.”
He also noted that Ellis Jacob, the company’s president and CEO, co-chaired the 2012 Jewish National Fund Negev Gala dinner in Toronto, which helped to raise $5.1 million for a botanical garden in Akko, Israel.
The festivals in both cities paid the standard market rates for the theatres, Pregent said, adding that she and Bester remained mystified by Cineplex’s decision.
“In Toronto we had six sold-out screenings in the 400-seat auditorium. That makes quite a lot of people eating popcorn. And in Montreal, when we get 3,000 people in a week, they’re also eating popcorn and candy and they’re parking downstairs. My perception is that I would be very happy to have those extra people in my cinema. I can’t see how that’s bad for business.”
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Names in the News: Toronto violinist Zachary Ebin and pianist Maria Dolnycky are performing an upcoming concert of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Clara Schumann and Kreisler. Ebin has performed extensively in Canada, the United States and Israel and is a PhD candidate at Toronto’s York University, where he has served as teaching assistant to Jacques Israelievitch. He is also a Torah reader at Beth Lida Synagogue, Forest Hill. $20, $15. KUMF Art Gallery, 2118-A Bloor St. W., 2nd floor (east of Runnymede). Sunday, Feb. 3, 3 p.m. 416-621-9287, www.mariadolnycky. com
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Arts in Brief
• The Iraqi Jewish Association presents a free screening of the award-winning documentary Wanted: The Joseph Esses Story, about a Jewish man who escaped from Syria in 1950. Director Michelle Kahn and the film’s subject (her grandfather) are expected to be in attendance. Sephardic Kehila Centre, 7026 Bathurst St., Thornhill. Wednesday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.
• In the latest lecture with film clips in his series on the films of Woody Allen, critic Kevin Courrier discusses Zelig, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Broadway Danny Rose, Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors. $12, $6 for students. Miles Nadal JCC, Monday, Feb. 4, 7 to 9 p.m. 416-924-6211, ext. 606.
• Sharoni Sibony presents a series of talks on Jewish Immigrant Writing in America, discussing such writers as Mary Antin, Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, David Bezmozgis and Gary Shteyngart. $105; MNjcc members $85. Miles Nadal JCC, Thursdays, Feb. 7 to 28, 7 to 8:30 p.m. 416-924-6211, ext. 154.
• Eleanor Wachtel, host of CBC’s Writers & Company, recently interviewed French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, best known for his 1985 landmark documentary Shoah. The program was scheduled for broadcast on Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and is also available for listening via the website www.cbc.ca/writersandcompany.
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At the Galleries: Rising Beyond the Body is an exhibition of paintings by Irit Epstein that examines “adaptation in a changing world.” At the Miles Nadal JCC Gallery through Feb. 18.