A Prince Among Conventions: ShowCanada relocates to Prince Edward Island for their annual show

Cinemas Features

A packing list for attendees of this year’s ShowCanada: Phone charger. Extra business cards. Lobster bib.

This year’s show, taking place from June 5-7, has set down roots on Prince Edward Island. “It’s an absolutely beautiful place,” explains executive director Nuria Bronfman. “It’s known for its red sand: red sand beaches and dunes and cliffs. What makes it so unique is that it’s such a charming and relaxing atmosphere.” There’s an “unbelievable music scene,” and oh yeah—“they’ve got some of the best lobster in the entire world.”

To clarify: ShowCanda isn’t just about going to PEI for three days and eating amazing food. But, well, that’s part of it—ShowCanada has always prided itself on its ability to integrate useful, informative panels and talks with events that give attendees a bit of local flavor—literal and metaphorical.

ShowCanada is interested in bolstering Canada’s entire film industry—not just exhibition, but production and distribution, too. To that end, on Monday, June 4, the day before the “official” convention kickoff, ShowCanada partners with Innovation PEI for a roundtable geared towards local filmmakers. “We’re bringing in some Canadian distributors, marketing people and a film buyer from Cineplex to give them the lay of the land in terms of the Canadian film industry,” Bronfman explains. That night, there’s the “unofficial” welcoming night kickoff, which boasts the sweet musical stylings of what Bronfman laughingly refers to as the “ShowCanada House Band.” That’s Cineplex Entertainment executive Michael Kennedy on guitar and vocals and the local head of sales for Walt Disney on drums, if you’re curious.

And that’s all before the show technically kicks off. Tuesday plays host to an Independents Round Table moderated by Neil Campbell of Landmark Cinemas, who “knows the industry inside and out,” says Bronfman. Among topics up for discussion are “technology issues and amenities, and the best way to look at marketing and social media.” After that, Gary Faber of ERm Research presents a session “for the independents on how to do your own survey. You can find out more about your audience and your demographic, and this is how you do it.”

Those two events—plus Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Susan Reilly Saldago, discussing “building remarkable teams and delivering remarkable experience”—represent the convention’s focus on customer service. Wednesday continues that all-important theme with “a panel looking at what different industries”—the beer, music and hockey industries, specifically—“are doing to build their own enhanced customer experience and customer retention.”

You have the normal conference cornerstones, too: a trade show, to be held on Wednesday, John Fithian’s state of the industry address on Thursday and a variety of breakfasts and lunches presented by studios. Studio presentations will take place on Tuesday and Thursday at the Cineplex Cinemas Charlottetown. And there are the awards, given to Steve McCune of the Landmark Cinemas ShowCase 5 Campbell River (Blockbuster Award), Catherine Faucher of Galaxy Cinemas Victoriaville (Eugene Amodeo Showmanship Award), Aryn Ogilvie of Landmark Cinemas New Westminster (Concessions Award), Laura Mank of Landmark Cinemas Waterloo (Audience Development Award), Sherri Overend of Landmark Cinemas Kingston 10 (Best Promotion of a Canadian Film-English) and Jason Strachan of Cineplex Odeon Beauport Cinema (Best Promotion of a Canadian Film-French).

But back to the food. ShowCanada is a small show, Bronfman explains, of about 400 people total, so they’re “able to do things you really can’t do at humongous conferences.” On Tuesday, that means an opening night cocktail and oyster bar with famous chef Michael Smith, hosted by Postmedia in partnership with Dolby. Smith “lives on PEI, and he owns this unbelievable hotel here, which is very exclusive. It’s impossible to get a reservation–we’re really lucky to have him,” says Bronfman. And ShowCanada attendees will be lucky to eat his food.

That lucky carries on through the closing night lobster supper. “When we asked the locals where to do a lobster supper, they were like ‘You have to go to New Glasgow Supper,’” Bronfman recalls. “So we’re taking everybody there. It’s about a 20-minute drive through farmland to this really beautiful place that’s right on a river.” It’ll be a hard experience for ShowCanada’s 2019 show—to be held in Kelowna, British Columbia, “the Napa Valley of Canada,” to top—but somehow, this is a show that never disappoints.