Neepawa theatre diversifies showings


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It’s no surprise that Neepawa — a town of approximately 5,000 people that has the highest per capita Filipino population in Canada — is seeing a demand for more diverse entertainment.

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It’s no surprise that Neepawa — a town of approximately 5,000 people that has the highest per capita Filipino population in Canada — is seeing a demand for more diverse entertainment.

The Roxy Theatre, located on Hamilton Street in Neepawa, is answering that call by bringing a Philippine action-adventure comedy film, titled “Partners in Crime,” to town.

The recently released film starring Vice Granda and Ivana Alawi, which will be shown at the Roxy Theatre on March 17 and 18, was one of the official entries for the 2022 Metro Manila Film Festival and became one of the event’s top-grossing movies.

The board of the Roxy, one of the last independent theatres in the province, had been trying to think outside the box to find new releases that might be of interest to Neepawa’s growing community, said Kate Jackman-Atkinson, chairperson of the Neepawa Theatre Centre Inc., the not-for-profit organization that runs the theatre.

The board had considered bringing in a Filipino movie before, but quickly noticed that most Filipino audiences had similar tastes in films to their Canadian peers.

“Members of that community were mostly wanting to see Hollywood movies,” Jackman-Atkinson said. “If you look at the box office in the Philippines, ‘Avatar’ is number one.”

But after re-evaluating how much the Filipino diaspora had grown in Neepawa, the board decided the time was right to bring in the movie.

“Partners in Crime” is about two former sweethearts who are now competing media personalities and reunite as sworn enemies. The two are sent to interview the richest man in the Philippines, who has survived 99 assassination attempts. When the man in question is found dead, the two former flames find themselves caught up in the crime and are forced to work together.

The board of the Roxy reached out to Neepawa and Area Immigrant Settlement Services (NAISS) to see if there would be much interest in bringing the movie to town.

Iris Lagria, who works with NAISS as a Settlement Worker in Schools program co-ordinator, said a buzz is already generating within the local Filipino population about the movie.

“We’ve posted the information on our Facebook page, and I believe we’ve already received a few inquiries as to how they can buy tickets,” she said.

The Roxy board was given a number of titles that were featured in the Metro Manila Film Festival, which took place at the end of December, to choose from. Once they found a Canadian distributor, Jackman-Atkinson said “Partners in Crime” proved to be the perfect choice.

“It seems like it did really well … as part of that film festival, and at the box office,” she said.

While the movie is likely to be a hit with Filipino audience members, Jackman-Atkinson said she has high hopes that people from other cultural backgrounds will also enjoy it, especially since it has English subtitles.

“It’s open to everyone. We think that there probably are a number of Canadians who would be interested in seeing it,” she said.

If the movie proves popular, the board may very well look at bringing more Filipino movies to town from time to time, along with more typical Hollywood-produced movies.

“If there is a market for this, then it’s something that we will keep trying to bring in on a regular basis. Certainly not every week, but it’s something that I would like to see a number of times a year, if there are suitable movies we can get,” Jackman-Atkinson said.

The Roxy has recently seen high turnout for “Where the Crawdads Sing,” a coming-of-age murder mystery film, and the Elvis biopic. Figuring out exactly what audiences are looking for in the post-COVID-19 market can be complicated, but it does seem like people are wanting to get back out and enjoy the movie theatre experience again, Jackman-Atkinson said. Since pandemic restrictions lifted, Neepawa residents have steadily patronized the Roxy.

“I feel like there’s always a lot of support for this theatre,” she said. “It’s a rewarding organization to be a part of because it seems like whenever we need something, the community really does step up.”

Currently, board members are actively seeking new ways to add value to the movie-going experience, she added. This includes finding out which specific movies people want to see. The group often relies on social media outlets to gauge what audience members want.

All of this effort, Jackman-Atkinson hopes, will pay off in the form of people coming out to see “Partners in Crime.”

“I feel like we’re giving it the best shot,” she said. “Our mandate is community-oriented movies … I want to bring in whatever people want to see.”

The Roxy Theatre first opened its doors in 1919. After a fire in 1945, the theatre was renovated the following year and again in 1988. The theatre boasts 302 seats on the main floor level and 148 seats in the upper level. It shows movies on the weekend and on some weekday holidays, and is a venue for live theatre and other performances as well.


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