The Roanoker September/October 2017 - 72
WHEN IAN FORTIER CAME ON BOARD as executive director in September of 2014, he had his work cut
out for him. Formerly at the Jefferson Center, nonprofit
management specialist Fortier exudes enthusiasm and
professionalism. If ever there was an example of someone
being in the right place at the right time, it seems to be
Fortier at the Grandin.
Standing in the main auditorium, Fortier recalls the
theatre's past-"Imagine the 100,000 people who have
watched movies in this seat; think about all the first dates
that happened here..."-as he looks pragmatically into
That future includes programming and partnerships
that, Fortier claims, will take the Grandin onto a national
stage, as the theatre becomes a model for creative "dark
time" (non-movie) use and continues to move toward
becoming a cultural community center for the Roanoke
Valley. "This is not just a movie theatre," Fortier says.
The list of the programs and partnerships built over
the past several years is diverse and impressive. Fortier
is firm that the Grandin operates on the philosophy of
thinking first about what is the right thing to
do for the theatre, and for the community.
"We've said yes over and over."
There are, of course, opportunities for
business seminars and birthday parties.
Anyone wanting a great space for a catered,
theater-themed event has it at the ready at
In addition, the Grandin opens its
doors to public and private schools
("Think about seeing 'To Kill A Mockingbird' on the Grandin's big screen after
studying it in English class!") and community groups (the Community Conversations program in which nonprofits show films
aligned with their mission). The Blue Ridge Autism and
Achievement Center brings its students to special screenings with their parents during closed hours, turning up
the lights and lowering the volume to accommodate their
needs. The Apple Ridge Farm kids and The Forest Park
Academy kids get to experience movies at the Grandin.
72 | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017
And four times a summer, the annual West End Walk occurs, where
kids from the West End Center make a symbolic walk across the bridge
to Grandin Village, and the theatre is theirs.
"Many of these kids have never been in a movie theatre," Fortier
points out. "We want them to know this theatre is for them as well."
There's even a church that worships in the theatre Sunday mornings.
The list goes on and on:
*The Indie Pop-Up Lens Series (sponsored by the Roanoke Public
* The MindMatters Series (sponsored by Mental Health America
of the Roanoke Valley)
* The Latino Film Festival (sponsored by H.A.C.I.E.N.D.A.)
* The Grandin Theatre Classics Film Series (sponsored by Friendship
Foundation and Roanoke Public Library Foundation)
* The Grandin Theatre Kids' Matinee Series (sponsored by Grandin
Village Business Association and RPFL)
* The Grandin Theatre Midnight Movie Series (sponsored by Village Grill and Scratch Biscuit)
Fortier is currently working on the first-ever African-American Film
Festival for 2018's Black History Month.
All of this is impressive, heartwarming, very well and good. But is it
enough to bring the Grandin national attention as a model of success
in the nonprofit theatre world?
"We repositioned ourselves as a cultural community center, and the
possibilities for using the theatre grew exponentially. When you combine being a first-run, multi-screen historic cinema with the community
center aspect of rentals, educational matinees, community conversations, programmatic outreach and student filmmaking, The Grandin
becomes a national model for historic independent cinema houses,"
"Add to this the fact that the theatre operates as an anchor for the
best example of a mixed-use and socially conscious neighborhood in
our region. We are an upstream economic driver. The sky is the limit."
In addition to the fact that the Theatre Foundation just finished
its third year in the black and is debt-free with full ownership of the
building, there is what Fortier calls "the big dog"-the Grandin Theatre Film Lab.
"We wanted to become a unifying entity and fiscal agent for experiential learning in film studies for valley high school students," Fortier says. We identified that there was no collaborative film education
program in the area. So we put together an advisory board with film
professionals, who modeled the Film Lab program after the Music Lab