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Downtown Eastside media society gives unique opportunities to youth and offers the best Tuesday night movie deal in town.
The lounge at District 319
A movie, a drink, and an admission ticket that supports an enterprising non-profit: single friends, the six-month-old Intersections Film Club at District 319 may be the most brilliantly understated venue for a first date in Vancouver. You can thank me later.
District 319 is one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets, and lucky for us, it’ll likely stay that way since it operates as an invitation-only private events venue. Opened in 2008 and located a few steps south of Main and Hastings, the storefront with bright-red awning reveals little of the cinematic gem inside.
The renovated movie theatre boasts an expansive front lounge (pictured above) furnished with a nod to the theatre’s origins as the Golden Harvest Theatre, which opened in 1975 and screened Chinese language films. Many original 35-mm film canisters are still stored in the theatre, which also contains a vintage movie projector in an old projection room upstairs. Beyond the lounge, the screening room is outfitted with plush leather armchairs for viewers, who can bring their drinks in with them while the movies play.
The $10 Intersections ticket price gets you a drink at the bar and a group screening of an indie, art house, cult or blockbuster film. New members sign up through the club’s website. Proceeds support the Intersections Media Opportunities for Youth Society, the non-profit that rents office space upstairs and runs filmmaking workshops for youth who face barriers to employment and want to get jobs in the film production industry.
Late Vancouver film producer Bill Vince. (Image: Intersections Media Opportunities for Youth Society)
Vancouver film magnate Bill Vince purchased the building that now houses District 319 in 2004,10 years after the Golden Harvest closed its doors.
“It was an empty hall. There was nothing here except rats and pigeons and old movies,” says Intersections director Douglas Holliston.
At the time, Vince ran a film production company called Infinity Features, the company behind the Oscar Award-winning Capote. Vince ran the operation out of 319 Main, and the crew was able to complete a significant amount of post-production work onsite.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus would be Vince’s final film. Vince developed an invasive form of cancer and passed away in his West Vancouver home in June 2008.
“It was a great loss to the film community,” Holliston recalls. “He was only 44 when he died.”
Intersections Media Opportunities for Youth Society staffers in the screening room at District 319: director Douglas Holliston (left), editor/mentor Fred Thorsen and youth support coordinator Selina Crammond.
Infinity Features disbanded upon Vince’s death, but his family and community was eager to keep his legacy alive.
“He was a Vancouver boy, very proud of his hometown,” Holliston says. “His career really had taken him to the international stage, and he chose to remain in Vancouver, and he also chose to invest in the Downtown Eastside. That was a big thing for him.”
Vince struggled with dyslexia, a learning disability that gave him empathy for the struggles of others, Holliston says.
“Bill’s model was always help others to help themselves. The other was never, ever, ever, ever give up.”
Intersections was originally a program run through Infinity Features for youth who faced barriers to employment, and it was incorporated as a non-profit in Vince’s memory.
“We do work with youth who have made a committed step toward change in their life and who have faced real barriers, but really want to find jobs in the film industry and pursue creative work,” says Selina Crammond, Intersections’ youth support coordinator.
Participants take part in the program for 16 weeks, which includes an internship with a media production company.
“It teaches you fundamental budget skills, interpersonal skills, time-management skills, stress-management skills, all of that stuff that carries over to any aspect of the working world,” says Holliston.
“Although our goal is to place our participants of the workshops in internships, success is complete self-realization and moving on with individual lives.”
View of District 319 from Main Street.
Intersections staff are in the midst of building a social enterprise, Red Licorice Media, that aims to eventually employ graduates of the youth workshops. The name affectionately refers to Vince’s habit of eating red licorice while watching movies and working on set.
The goal is for Red Licorice to become a for-profit enterprise that creates public-service announcements and other media materials for local businesses and community groups. Profits will support the youth staff and Intersections.
Intersections Film Club will continue as an avenue for the community to support the club’s video production workshops.
“Our goal is to make [the film club] sort of a monthly cultural entertainment event for people who love movies and want to come together and meet other people. Vancouver’s not the easiest city to meet people,” Holliston says.
“It’s nice to go out and be with people and experience film the way it is still produced. And that is as a collective, not as an individual.”