Banff Bound: ShowCanada returns home after a year in Tinseltown

Cinemas Features

Last year marked an unusual outing for ShowCanada, as the Great White North’s premier exhibition industry tradeshow headed south of the border to sunny Los Angeles for their 30th year. For 31, taking place from May 30 to June 1, they’re home, home again in gorgeous Banff, Alberta.

Banff, nestled within the Canadian Rockies’ Banff National Park, is per ShowCanada executive director Nuria Bronfman “one of the jewels in Canada’s crown.” It’s “kind of the antithesis of L.A.” At last year’s ShowCanada, attendees got glitz and glamour—studio tours, cocktail parties, Madame Tussauds. Banff, by contrast, “is a very laid-back place. It’s surrounded by beautiful mountains. The landscape is stunning… We’re thrilled to be at the Banff Springs Hotel, which is a real landmark.” Built in the 1880s and remodeled in the 1920s, it’s the perfect site for an “enchanted castle”-style opening-night cocktail party. Word to the wise for any particularly superstitious attendees: Bronfman laughingly admits that the Banff Springs “has its share of ghost stories!”

A shift in atmosphere from last year doesn’t mean ShowCanada won’t provide the same value that exhibition professionals have come to expect over the decades. Programming includes a pair of events on younger employees, one a discussion by Donohue Learning founder and CEO Dr. Mary Donohue titled “Managing in the Generational Workplace,” the other a “The Price Is Right”-style game show that invites delegates to compete against one another in their knowledge of Millennial theatre employees.

“We think it’s going to be a really fun way to get some insight into their lives—how they function, why they want to work in theatres, how to retain them,” Bronfman explains. “Exhibition is one of the largest employers of first-time employees… One of the challenges for the exhibition industry is hiring and retaining staff. So we thought it would be interesting to delve into that a little bit and get the information straight from the horse’s mouth. Go straight to the employees, and see what they think on a variety of issues.”

(Sounds fun, but…there will be prizes, right, Nuria? Don’t worry: “What’s a game show without prizes?”)

Other discussion topics include “how you can market an independent theatre with not a lot of money”—that’s the “Creating a Brand Strategy” session, hosted by Beth Anderson of Washington, DC’s Avalon Theatre—and globalization, the latter subject serving as the centerpiece for a panel moderated by NATO president and CEO John Fithian.

ShowCanada switches things up a bit with a panel on virtual reality, moderated by Cineplex Entertainment COO Dan McGrath. “There are a lot of people getting into this space right now, and we’re going to explore what it means in terms of the exhibition and distribution businesses, what the future applications may be, and how it may affect our business,” says Bronfman. “I think it’s a very interesting arena.”

All the major studios will be in attendance to present their upcoming slates, with Warner Bros. offering up a special advance screening of Wonder Woman. (There will be a second screening, but Bronfman was still keeping the film under wraps as of press time.) Of course, Canadian distributor Entertainment One will be represented in a big way, serving as a sponsor and showing off their slate in addition to hosting the closing-night party, taking place at Mountain View BBQ. It has “beautiful mountain views, and it’s outdoors. It’s going to be a really perfect farewell to Banff,” Bronfman promises. “We’re going to have a big, big bonfire. And s’mores. It’s going to be great.”

Bronfman hopes that, despite ShowCanada’s busy schedule, “the delegates will have a tiny bit of free time to explore the surroundings, because [Banff] is so stunning and gorgeous.” But if they don’t, well, parts of Banff will come to them. In addition to availing themselves of local businesses—the aforementioned Mountain View BBQ and the Banff Springs Hotel, plus the Lux Cinema, an independent theatre where the studio presentations will take place—ShowCanada has invited local culinary creatives to take place in “Artisan Alley,” part of this year’s tradeshow. “People can purchase souvenirs and local fare, and we’re going to do a tasting of local spirits and some local chocolate,” says Bronfman.

That’s one of the cornerstone philosophies of ShowCanada: infusing each year’s show with a bit of local flavor. And that local flavor changes, as ShowCanada moves to a different city every year, in part to make it easy for independent theatres from all across Canada to send representatives. (In 2018, Prince Edward Island will call ShowCanada home.) “We survey our delegates every year,” and this infusion of local culture is consistently something they enjoy, notes Bronfman. “We started doing it in St. John’s [Newfoundland, in 2013], and the delegates really appreciate it. So many times you go to a conference, and you could be anywhere. So it’s nice to bring some of the local feeling into the conference, as much as you can.”