/‘The Movie Man’ comes home to Kinmount’s Highlands Cinemas
Keith Stata shares a laugh before the screening of the Movie Man at Highlands Cinemas on Saturday, Sept. 23. /ADAM FRISK Special to the Times

‘The Movie Man’ comes home to Kinmount’s Highlands Cinemas

By Adam Frisk

The highly anticipated documentary “The Movie Man” made its way home to Kinmount’s Highlands Cinemas on Saturday with two private screenings of the film.

Hosted in what arguably is the most unusual movie theatre in North America, perhaps the world, “The Movie Man” premiered in front of two sold out shows, telling the story of Keith Stata, the man behind the movies.

Filmmaker Matt Finlin spent nearly five years working on the project, telling the story of how Stata built the wacky movie theatre and his effort to keep it alive.

“It started when my aunt brought me here when I was 11 years old, we were camping up here with my family,” Finlin said Saturday following the screening. “Then I came on a weekend to make a short piece, I hadn’t been here in many years… and after I got back I thought ‘Think there might be something here,’ then it’s five years later we’ve got this.”

The film, in part, focused on the struggle for Stata brought on by COVID, with the pandemic acting like the villain in a horror movie.

“It was a challenge, COVID wasn’t a gift to most of us but it was a gift to the film because it provided real stakes, is this theatre going to survive? Is Keith going to be able to reopen,” Finlin said. “When we were able to come back and safely film again, and catch up, it became how do we build this tension in the stakes to see if it’ll actually open.”

Lending a hand as executive producer of the film was Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, who had been coming to the theatre for over 30 years.

“I first started coming when I was about 17 years old and cottaging in the Minden area,” Robertson said Saturday. “I don’t think I’ve missed a summer, coming multiple times as my kids grew.”

Robertson said he met Finlin through a mutual friend and learned the filmmaker was making a documentary on Highland Cinema and immediately jumped at the opportunity to help with the project.

“This is just such, everyone knows who has ever been here, this is such a special, unique, incredible place,” Robertson said. “[Keith], you’ve made the lives of everyone who has ever been here richer and there’s very few people that can say that.

“You created something unique, you created something beautiful and you celebrated the thing you love and we are all so grateful.” the singer said.

As for the movie man himself, Stata was pleased to see how it all came together.

“I said to Matt the other day, the thing that’s strange about this is that when I built the theatre I didn’t envision seeing myself on the screen,” Stata said. “I wanted [Matt] to do what they did for Harrison Ford and make me look 40 years younger.

“But unfortunately the poster made me look like one of those guys on Mount Rushmore,” Stata quipped.

As for what’s next for “The Movie Man,” Finlin revealed the film was picked by Toronto-based Mongrel Media and will be distributed across the country for all movie fans to see.