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For first time in 30 years, Banff film festival goes virtual

For the first time in more than 30 years, there won’t be a live showing of the Banff Film Festival in Spokane.

“This is a nice stopgap,” Paul Fish said. “But I was really hoping to touch base with our Spokane customers (in person).”

Instead, there will be a one-night virtual show available to view in all areas on Nov. 26, Fish said. As in previous years, the exact film lineup won’t be announced until closer to the show date.

For decades, Fish, the owner of Mountain Gear until it closed last year, booked the traveling film festival in the United States.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, live shows are impossible. Fish and Banff film festival organizers are hopeful it will be possible to have some live shows after Jan. 21.

“Looking at the COVID forecast, I think live-in-theater shows are unlikely next season, but I will have some tentative dates between late January and mid-April,” Fish wrote in an email. “Drive-in shows are a possibility and we are looking for venues to work with.”

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity already canceled much of the planned 2019-20 world tour screenings and the center is struggling financially, Fish said.

According to the Calgary Herald, 40% of the center’s operating budget comes from its conference and hospitality business, which was decimated by the pandemic. That led to the center laying off nearly 300 employees in June. The Alberta government, which provides some of the arts center’s funding, also tightened its budgets in response to the pandemic.

“I actually made a donation to the Banff Centre,” Fish said.

Despite all the uncertainty, Fish was impressed with this year’s films.

“I really loved many of this year’s films and was surprised how strong they were,” he said.

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