by PETER DORFMAN
When Peter LoPilato launched The Ryder on April Fool’s Day 1979, it was part of a wave of Bloomington- based alternative magazines. Focused on the downtown arts scene, the magazine and associated Ryder Film Series have outlasted all of their counterculture peers. But time may be running out for this local icon. With the COVID-19 pandemic weighing down local businesses, The Ryder is running online without ad revenue.
Now, its primary revenue source is a GoFundMe campaign called Rally for the Ryder.
“We expected the pandemic crisis to be under control by September,” LoPilato says. “The plan in March was to publish electronically and continue paying staff—we could have withstood losing money for six months. But the crisis won’t end anytime soon. We’ll hang on until the spring, and then try to reimagine what the magazine can be online.”
The magazine is continuing to adapt in the meantime. With arts venues mostly dark this year, The Ryder jettisoned its usual short essays on upcoming events, along with its calendar centerfold. The content has shifted to more long-form journalism from Bloomington-linked writers.
“My wife is fond of pointing out that I’m involved in two enterprises, both of which are becoming obsolete: print journalism and cinema,” LoPilato says.
Before COVID-19, film screenings were held at the Buskirk- Chumley Theater and smaller venues like Bear’s Place. “We would do micro-festivals of films with a common theme,” LoPilato explains. “We host a children’s international short film festival, and every year we host an Oscar short festival—the Academy Award nominees for best short film.”
Now, the series has shifted to online, virtual screenings. A virtual screening ticket allows the viewer to see the film within a 72-hour time window. “It’s not the same experience,” LoPilato allows. “Consequently, we’re not selling as many tickets.”
At 68, LoPilato might have been tempted to retire, but he insists he’s just getting started. “We’ve always prided ourselves on reaching a readership that does the irrational,” he asserts.
For more information, visit theryder.com. To donate to The Ryder’s GoFundMe campaign, visit gofundme.com/rally-for- the-ryder.