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Whither Saratoga Film Forum?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013
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It’s not that Hollywood movies can’t be really good, it’s just that independent films tend to be good much more often. Saratoga Springs is fortunate to have a large number of people who value such films, and for the last 20 years a venue, the Saratoga Film Forum, to see and discuss them.

But the not-for-profit forum has some decisions to make with the coming of a new, ll-screen theater whose private owners (who also own Bow Tie Cinema in Schenectady) say they will show a mix of Hollywood and independent films.

Shutting down apparently isn’t being considered — and shouldn’t be. Even if the owners do what they say (they also said they’d show some independent films in Schenectady, and, for the most part, haven’t), there will still be a place for the forum, with its strong core of members, volunteers and others who come to the 175 or so movies it screens each year in the Saratoga Arts Center on Broadway.

Exactly where that place will be is one of the decisions. The three possibilities discussed at a meeting of forum members last week were: staying where they are; renting a screen or otherwise collaborating with Bow Tie (which has better equipment, such as digital projectors); using Universal Preservation Hall, a beautiful old church on Washington Street whose not-for-profit owner recently announced a partnership with Proctors to fix and use it for arts programming.

Money and mission are the other issues, and they aren’t unrelated. The forum has a small budget and gets most of its revenue from hot independent films like “Django Unchained” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Bow Tie would get dibs on those mainstream movies, depriving the forum of revenue that it uses to bring in more obscure documentaries, foreign language films and such.

But there are more and more good independent films available, and Bow Tie isn’t going to show them all. In fact, Bow Tie could help the forum by creating a bigger audience for indie films of all types, new and old, popular and less popular.

And not everyone who attends the forum is there just for the film. Many enjoy the discussions, formal and informal, that take place before and after. The forum will have to change, and find new ways of getting customers and revenue. But as long as it keeps providing that special sense of community for cinema lovers, it should be all right.

 
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