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Mario Fortin | The departure of the handyman

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Almost 50 years ago, Mario Fortin was hired as an assistant director of the Seville cinema in downtown Montreal. The melody of happiness was on display. In December 2022, on the eve of his 70th birthday, Fortin will leave the general management of the Beaubien cinema, which he helped found at the turn of the millennium.

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“I look like a follower with all those who have announced their departure for a few weeks! he laughs.

Mario Fortin is an all-rounder of Quebec cinema. After Sevilla, he worked at the Famous Players headquarters, in programming, marketing, administration and acquisitions. “I installed the first cash registers in all of the Famous Players circuit across Canada,” he says.

He later found himself at Telefilm Canada, the World Film Festival, the Montreal International Children’s Film Festival and various distributors, until he was asked to save what was then the threatened Dauphin cinema.

On the initiative of citizens, the Beaubien cinema was born in September 2001, in the form of an ONLUS, with a model of social economy. In 2013 Mario Fortin was also entrusted with the general direction of the Cinéma du Parc, to which the new cinema at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was added in 2018.

“I have done in the last 20 years what I learned to do in the first 30 years of my career,” says the eldest of five children, who grew up in the Rosemont neighborhood, where the Beaubien cinema is located. . “I started in a hall and will end up in a hall. ”

Get a washing machine Popcorn, take it apart and reassemble, I’ve been doing it often for 50 years. I know less about digital projectors these days, but a 35mm projector I’d be able to make it work.

Mario Fortin, director of the Beaubien, du Parc and MMFA cinemas

A sympathetic decision-maker in the shadows, Mario Fortin was an indispensable cog in the distribution of Quebec cinema, honored from the outset by the Beaubien cinema. This also earned him the Jutra Award as Quebec’s Best Cinematographer for the year 2014.

Le Beaubien is a sort of health barometer of Quebec cinema, which makes up 40% of its programming, another 40% is dedicated to French cinema and the rest to international cinema or films intended for families. “In 2013, when Quebec cinema experienced its annus horribilis, we heard it,” says Mario Fortin.

Currently we can see, in the five movie rooms of Beaubien, Quebec Noémie says yes, Babysitter, No chicane in my cabin, Tail, Gabor, norborgo and, from Friday, the excellent Arsenault & Sons.

A symbolic anniversary

“About fifteen years ago, Philippe Falardeau, who was a member of the board of directors, said we had to start thinking about the succession. He has been put off several times! “, Says Mario Fortin, who announced, at the age of 65, that he would leave his functions on December 17, 2022, the day before his 70And birthday.

The date has a symbolic meaning for him, given that on the day of his 70th birthday Roland Smith gave him the keys to the Parc cinema. He leaves the management of these three neighborhood cinemas with peace of mind, confident of their sustainability and good financial health.

However, he feared for the survival of the Beaubien cinema, in the first year of the pandemic, when government aid was slow to arrive. “It was tough,” she said. I have never done as many budget and grant applications as in the past couple of years. But he’s been back since February. We are at around 75-80% attendance in 2019, in a comparable period, and we are collecting around 5% per month. So I predict that by the end of the year we’ll be back to the good old days! ”

Until the pandemic, Beaubien cinema had experienced great stability since its inception in 2001. There has always been a cinephile audience. And contrary to popular belief, it is made up of only a quarter of people living within five kilometers.

“Twenty years ago we did a survey and the typical customer was 50, with an above average level of education and income. Today it still is! “, Notes Mario Fortin, who has seen the public constantly renew itself.

He leaves Beaubien, but does not intend to retire. “No! No! No! I’ve seen 200 films a year for 20 years. I can’t stop! He says. He will continue to go to the cinema – in principle he is not subscribed to any digital platform – and to attend festivals.

If he has no intention of meddling in the affairs of the new leadership, which will be announced shortly, he will not be far off if needed, he assures us. “Of course they’ll call me if they don’t know what break must be turned off! “Word of a handyman.

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