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I have peripheral vision. It pays off big. I see things many miss.

The other day biking around the city out of the corner of my eye I glanced upon what appeared to be but on closer examination proved not to be a new issue of NOW Magazine in a box on the street.

I grabbed a few issues to put on display in The CineForum.

NEXT is the new NOW.

Cities need a weekly paper.

NEXT is not yet a weekly.

I first learned the importance of a weekly not in Toronto but in Montreal.

My CARTOON FESTIVAL was to appear at the 1,000 seat Rialto.

It was scheduled for the end of the month but the theatre told me the Montreal JUST FOR LAFFS FEST felt my event too close to theirs.

I said, “Fine. Move it but put an ad in THE MIRROR.”

I knew that everyone in Montreal read THE MIRROR on Thursday.

They said, “If you want an ad in THE MIRROR you pay for it.” I said, “Take the cost off the top.”

I called THE MIRROR. They said, “You don’t need a full page, a half page will do.”

My normal crowd at THE RIALTO (which while it seated 1,000 never pulled more than a hundred for events) was 500.

With the ad in THE MIRROR we packed the theatre. We had to turn away hundreds.

A weekly print paper focuses a city’s energy in a way the web can’t do.

Neither can daily newspapers.


Those papers have done many terrific pieces on my work over the years. Often I got full page coverage.

But, and it is a big but, those papers never put bums on seats at my shows.

As a result of my Montreal experience I used NOW to promote my programs at The Cabana Room in The Spadina Hotel (another venue gone that was vital to the scene).

To cover the cost of a half page ad in NOW for a room that could seat perhaps at most 60 meant I had to charge a premium price. Would people pay it?

There is a saying, “Without risk there is no theatre?” We  live in a moment when there is little or no risk in theatre (nor in the movies for all that).

Well, without risk there is no life.

“People won’t pay that much,” management at THE SPADINA said.

Well, not only did people pay it they spent money at the bar. Bar sales went through the roof.

In all the venues I used (THE DIAMOND, SNEAKY DEE’S, LEE’S PALACE and others) my bar sales went through the roof.

Why? Because they took the bar and, instead of paying me, let me have the door.

Artists complained of not being paid. I was happy not to have to pay.

After years of paying money to use spaces I rented in churches, libraries, colleges, schools and universities I got to drink the rent.

I next tried a monthly magazine published by Cineplex Odeon.

Unfortunately that magazine was not one people took home. They looked at it, read puff pieces and left it on the floor. It had no substance.

NOW captured the attention of the people in the city.

XTRA! did the same.

On line publications are useless.

What is needed is a solid paper people can spread out on their tables.

What is also needed is writers not afraid to court controversy.

Is NEXT to be the new NOW?

I sure as Hell hope so.

The city needs NEXT NOW.

We need on the street print publications.

We need them vitally.

A tip of the hart to Michael Hollett.

People visiting the city and people new to the city read NOW and XTRA! because they were on the street.

Those papers put them in touch with the scene.

Look for NEXT in a box on the street. Look for it NOW.

–Reg Hartt 2024–06–13


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