Group upset anti-abortion film will not be screened on P.E.I.

The P.E.I. Right to Life Association says it's 'inexcusable' that no cinemas on the Island are planning to screen the anti-abortion film Unplanned. 

P.E.I. one of two provinces with no theatres scheduled to show Unplanned

Actor Ashley Bratcher, right, is shown in a scene from the film Unplanned. The controversial American anti-abortion film is set to hit Canadian theatres soon, with the distributor bracing for possible protests. (Soli Deo Gloria Releasing/The Canadian Press)

The P.E.I. Right to Life Association says it is "inexcusable" that no cinemas on the Island are planning to screen the anti-abortion film Unplanned.

As it stands, P.E.I. is one of only two provinces — and the only province in Atlantic Canada — where no theatre is planning to show the film.

I would love to have this across the country on as many screens as we can.— B.J. McKelvie

"Like many of our members and pro-life supporters on Prince Edward Island, I was massively disappointed and upset," said Pat Wiedemer, the association's executive director.

"What is the underlying motive for not allowing Islanders to make their own decision on this film?"

The film, based on the true story of a Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas who becomes an anti-abortion speaker, will screen in 14 Cineplex theatres in Canada for a week beginning Friday.

Ten Landmark-brand cinemas and some independent theatres across the country have also announced they'll screen the film. 

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has called Unplanned anti-abortion propaganda that "could incite fanatics to commit acts of harassment or violence against clinics or doctors."

Some theatres showing it have reported receiving threats and vocal opposition in recent days, CBC has reported. 

'Very, very disappointing'

But Unplanned's Canadian distributor, Fredericton-based Cinedicom, said that's not why P.E.I. theatres are not showing the film. 

Pat Wiedemer, the executive director of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association, questions why no Island theatres have decided to screen Unplanned. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Cinedicom president B.J. McKelvie, who is also a pastor, told CBC News Cineplex's decision not to screen the movie in its Charlottetown or Summerside theatres came down to "screen availability" during the busy summer season. 

A company spokesperson for Cineplex said in an email to CBC that it "worked with the distributor to choose where we would present it based on anticipated demand."

McKelvie said he also reached out to Charlottetown's independent theatre, City Cinema. 

"I think City Cinema said their summer schedule was already set in full," said McKelvie.  "[It is] very, very disappointing. I would love to have this across the country on as many screens as we can."

Wiedemer questions whether scheduling really stood in City Cinema's way. 

"With all due respect, every movie theatre would have had that same issue," Wiedemer said. "However there are other theatres who made it happen. So why aren't our theatres making it happen?"

'Shouldn't have to be a private initiative'

Wiedemer said her association has reached out to both City Cinema and Cineplex in hopes of renting a theatre and arranging a private screening. 

B.J. McKelvie, who runs the Canadian company distributing Unplanned, says he reached out to City Cinema in Charlottetown which told him its summer schedule was already full. (CBC)

"But I would prefer that the movie theatres do it. That's their job," she said. 

"We have to struggle with advertising, getting out people, and there's a financial aspect of it," she said. "This shouldn't have to be a private initiative, not for a film like this."

Nobody from City Cinema was available to comment Thursday. 

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Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.