Wildlife Film Festival to purchase Roxy Theater 

The International Wildlife Film Festival and Media Center has found a new home in Missoula, and the organization hopes to parlay the new location into a global powerhouse of wildlife film and media. Last week, IWFF/IWMC reached an agreement with the estate in control of the Roxy Theater to rent and then purchase the landmark building on South Higgins Avenue.

The agreement comes just in time for the group to ready the Roxy for this year’s 25th anniversary film festival, to be held April 20–27. The IWFF/IWMC will become tenants of the Roxy on March 1, and will be expected to come up with $250,000 to $300,000 to complete the purchase by the end of May.

Janet Rose, executive director of IWFF/IWMC, says that although the main events of the festival will be held at the Wilma Theater, the Roxy’s three theaters will be humming with activity during the festival and will be used to judge the films in March.

The group has made a leap of faith in entering the agreement, according to Rose, but she feels confident that the community will step up to help make this purchase a reality. “It’s such a beautiful venue, and it’s been empty for two years,” she says. “What we’re looking for is a community-wide effort to help us make this happen. We feel that people here are serious about education, children, and saving the Roxy, and they’ll pitch in to help.”

Rose estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the funds will need to come from local and regional sources, and her group has provided a number of avenues for donations. In addition to an art auction to be held at the Catlin Gallery on March 2, seats at the Roxy will be adorned with ceramic tiles honoring donors of $1,000 or more. Those who give $100 or more will be honored by wall tiles, and contributors of lesser amounts will receive the benefits accorded to the group’s “Herd of Supporters.” In addition, IWFF/IWMC will hold a reception and sneak preview screening of the festival’s “Best Of” film on March 19, when the final judges will be in town.

Rose points out that the benefits of the new location go beyond establishing Missoula as the worldwide focal point of wildlife film and media. Besides providing a community resource—the theater will be available for community groups of all types—Rose says that the resurrection of the Roxy should give the city an economic boost. “I feel that this is a gift to Missoula and the whole region,” she says, “and we’re just the conduit to make it happen.”

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