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A screening at the Bytowne Cinema. Photo: Megan McLeod.

Future of Ottawa: Cinema with Bruce White

By Apartment613 on March 16, 2021

This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into Ottawa’s film industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Bruce White on the future of indie cinemas, or read posts from Emily Ramsay on indie filmmakers, Stephanie Davy on the film production industry, or Tom McSorley on film festivals.

Bruce White is an alumnus of CKCU-FM, where he learned that everyone’s interests are equally interesting. He and Jean Cloutier opened the ByTowne Cinema in 1988. Bruce has lived in Ottawa for 48 years.

A screening at the Bytowne Cinema. Photo: Megan McLeod.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for cinemas in Ottawa?

Bruce White: Currently, in-person cinema is in the wilderness. 50 people per screening is not sustainable; cinemas that are open are losing money or barely paying the bills.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is indie cinema going in Ottawa in 2021?

I think that 75% of 2021 will be pretty quiet in cinemas, but that by September (roughly) we should be seeing fewer restrictions on attendance and more people going out to see film

Lineups at the Bytowne. Photo: Megan McLeod.

Where in your wildest dreams could indie cinema in Ottawa go in your lifetime?

The dream isn’t wild. It’s a simple vision of two or three places where film lovers can see quality films on a daily basis, and a sufficient number of those film lovers attending to make a decent living for the indie operators.

What is the best innovation to take place in cinema since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

In my opinion, none of the ‘pivots’ have been successful. The magic of seeing movies on a big screen in a gathering of like-minded film fans cannot be replicated virtually, or in a parking lot. The best innovation is whatever keeps the lights on until a majority of people can be vaccinated.

A screening at the Bytowne Cinema. Photo: Megan McLeod.

*Who* is the future of indie cinema in Ottawa?

Each and every person who buys a ticket in the first few months post-pandemic.

Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career at The ByTowne.

To save stress on your back, lift film cans by bending at the knees.


Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on Apt613.ca.