Hollywood actor Adam Beach, star of the recently cancelled series Arctic Air, wants young people on native reserves to be able to watch movies without having to book a flight or travel all day to get to a theatre, so he has decided to take pop-up cinemas to remote First Nations communities.
The first to open was in the community of Brokenhead First Nation about 65 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. But there are plans to bring pop-up theatres to other communities, including Norway House First Nation, 800 km north of Winnipeg and two First Nations communities in Saskatchewan.
A small crew of technicians arrived at Tommy Prince School in Brokenhead on Friday and set up a large screen and projector worthy of a big cineplex. The only difference is, this cinema is mobile and can easily be disassembled and moved to other communities.
The films on the schedule in Brokenhead this weekend include Draft Day, Path of Souls, 12 Years a Slave, The Lego Movie, Divergent and Enemy.
So far, the kids have been loving the project., says Beach, who has starred in numerous films and television series, including Law and Order, Big Love and Cowboys and Aliens and CBC's Arctic Air, which aired its last episode this week.
'Christian Slater called me in, like, 15 minutes, and said "I want in. I want to help out."' - Adam Beach, actor
"Our response is so good, we don't have enough pop-up theatres," he said.
Beach said as soon as Hollywood found out what he was up to, his phone started ringing.
"Christian Slater called me in, like, 15 minutes, and said 'I want in. I want to help out. Which community do I go to?'" Beach said.
Beach said the impetus for the project is simple.
"I got some friends up in northern Ontario, and it costs them $3,000 to get a busload of people to go and watch a movie," he said. "And I think that's ridiculous. I went to Labrador, for them to leave their community is a $1,000 flight. So, if they want to watch a movie, they have to pay $1,000. Now, who the hell's going to do that?"
A 'family experience'
Jeremy Torrie is the director the crew that sets up the travelling cinema. He said it's not just about bringing the latest entertainment to remote communities. It's about inspiring the young people who crowd into the theatre.
"They might have never thought that they could have a career in film in some shape or form, as a writer, as a director, and an actor," he said.
"There are so may different jobs possible, and if something tweaks for them, a light bulb goes off, that's great. We would love that."
Beach said he's committed to expanding the project even further.
"By us being a distributor model and an exhibitor, bringing films to the communities, over the next couple of years, we'll expand from two theatres to 100," he said.
"Our partnerships [are] allowing us to bring these movies in. So, now, we have an opportunity to share more aboriginal films, so we're basically creating a bigger market for native film. But also, we are now being able to bring the world to these communities."
The pop-up cinema experience also offers an opportunity for different generations to find common ground.
"How do we get the parents to initiate activities with their kids? Because there's this gap," he said. "And what better way than to bring in movies? It's a family experience. Everybody loves it: old to young."