Filmmakers and art lovers are speaking out about rumoured changes that they fear will degrade Regina Film Theatre and its offerings.

They are concerned that Regina Public Library, which runs the program, will no longer have a local film programmer, and is moving to using a booking agent from outside the community.

Karen Rose is a choreographer who worked with film programmer Belinda New on promoting a dance piece, and described her as a tireless and dedicated promoter of Canadian and international cinema in the city.

"She is a pillar in the community, a force of stability as she has been here for over 20 years."

'It's bigger than just screening films, it's events.' - Karen Rose, patron of Regina Film Theatre

Rose notes the programmer has a lot of experience and does research to bring high quality films to Regina, but also works with members of the arts community to arrange for things such as festivals or talks by directors.

"It's bigger than just screening films, it's events," she said. "It keeps people alive and involved in a small city."

She describes it as "baffling" and worrisome that the Regina Public Library has not been open or communicative about the changes. Her concern is that the proposed move will take Regina backwards in its cultural offerings and in the long run, could threaten the existence of the film theatre. 

"In my opinion, it's a step to closing it, because I think the films will not be on par, and it will lose a lot of the community involvement."

Rose and a few others have sent letters to the Regina Public Library to express their concerns about the move, and will be speaking at the library's next board meeting on Jan. 23 at the Central Branch.

Programmer brings local awareness, says filmmaker

Regina filmmaker Robin Schlaht is among those who have sent letters to the library board. In his letter, he noted the programmer brings an awareness of local issues to the role, in choosing films that might reflect everything from Indigenous issues to agriculture that connect with Regina residents.

Filmmakers from around the region rely on access to a local programmer to propose packages and themes, and, he wrote, "Early contact with the programmer can help filmmakers refine projects with a better awareness of potential audiences."

'Moving in a different direction'

Jeff Barber, director and CEO of Regina Public Library, confirmed that there are changes that will be taking place in the management of the Regina Film Theatre, but declined to get into specifics on how staffing will be altered.

"The staff member that we have had working on that is excellent but we're just moving in a different direction in terms of how we internally operate the program," he said.

Barber said the library is always looking for ways to do its business better, which he sees as an obligation as a public organization.

'I think we'll be able to deliver a high quality, local program at the film theatre even under our new model.' - Jeff Barber, director at Regina Public Library

However, Regina Film Theatre will stay under local control, with library staff deciding on the programming, said Barber. The staff will continue to work with local people on making film selection, he said, even as there may be a move to use a separate booking agent.   

Community engagement is highest when the film theatre brings in events and programs, such as having directors come and speak, or holding festivals, and Barber said he hopes to continue and expand those types of offerings in the future.

As to people's concerns about the loss of a local, dedicated film programmer, Barber said he doesn't believe the change will impact the service.

"I think we'll be able to deliver a high quality, local program at the film theatre even under our new model."