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A Great North Christmas premieres on Saturday

Christmas romance movie was shot in P.G. last winter; mystery remains on when and how the public can watch it.
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A Great North Christmas director James Douglas gets ready to shoot a scene for the movie Saturday in front of the Twisted Cork restaurant on Fifth Avenue. Citizen photo by Ted Clarke

Roll out the red carpet.

Get out your black-tie duds and evening dresses.

Fire up the limousine.

There's a movie premiere gala happening this Saturday evening at the Prince George Civic and Conference Centre to screen the movie, A Great North Christmas and Norm Coyne, the movie’s producer, would like to invite everybody who wants to be there, but he can’t.

Not while the pandemic still poses a public health safety threat.

Only about 100 ticket holders will be admitted to the premiere of the 84-minute Christmas romance, filmed last February and March at locations in and around Prince George.

“In a perfect world we could have 500 or 600 people attend, but with the restrictions in place due to COVID we only actually have 100 tickets we could allot to people, and there’s more than 150 people who worked on the film,” Coyne said.

“We had to make some really tough choices. You have to have the key crew, cast and volunteers, and we did our best offering tickets to all those folks and then we opened it up to our extras in the film and the general public. It’s a bummer that everybody can’t come and see it on the big screen but that’s just the way of the world right now.”

The movie has been picked up in the United States and is now being shown on the streaming service, Crackle, but that is not available in Canada. There is an agreement in place with a Canadian distributor for A Great North Christmas but it’s still unknown when it will be available.

“We don’t have a firm schedule yet in terms of when and how it will be seen in Canada, but obviously we know people are excited to see it, it’s just out of our hands,” said executive producer Sara Shaak. “It’s a Christmas movie and we want everybody to see it and we understand people are frustrated and want to see it. We want nothing more than it to be all over the place everywhere.

“The good news is we have our American deal and we have some deals internationally so it is being seen, just not at home yet. It was a very cool project at the time and we’re proud of it.”  

Coyne and Shaak said they would consider other venues in the city, such as the Cineplex Odeon theatre, for special event screenings to try to meet the demand.

The female lead in the movie, Vancouver actor Laura Mitchell, who plays the role of Caroline North, a banking executive who is sent by her friends to Prince George for a winter holiday, will attend Saturday’s premiere. But due to other commitments, Jay Hindle, who plays her love interest Jonathan in the movie, won’t be coming to Prince George.

The Civic Centre is being used this week for the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation’s annual Festival of Trees fundraiser, whose organizers have taken on working out details for the movie premier. Coyne wanted the film screening to coincide with the event as a thank you to Festival of Trees organizers who lent their decorations for some of the Great North Christmas scenes.

Farmhouse Catering will have popcorn specially made for the premiere, Frozen Paddle is making A Great North Christmas ice cream flavour and Trench Brewing, which had its products placed in the movie, will provide some of the beverages.

Shaak, the former head of the Prince George Film Commission, is involved in the project through her Calgary-based company, Anamorphic Media, and she plans to attend the premiere with Shayne Putzlocher of Trilight Entertainment, who shared in the financing of A Great North Christmas.

A second movie shot this year in Prince George, The Way to the Heart, just wrapped up post-production two weeks ago and Shaak says a premiere is in the works for that as well. It’s not a Christmas movie and there’s not the same urgency as there is with A Great North Christmas to have it available now.

“We just finished it and it looks great and I’m sure we’ll be able to do a screening early in the new year,” she said.

There is outside interest from other film producers who are considering Prince George for location shooting. Coyne, a partner in Barker Street Cinema, says with each movie shot in the city, that experience raises the technical expertise of local crews and their familiarity with the process makes the city more enticing for producers from Los Angeles, Toronto or Vancouver.

“Every production that happens makes us better at what we do,” said Coyne. “There’s a lot more engagement than you probably would get in a much more established city. People just want to see this happen and they’re willing to give a little more or do a little more and in that respect Prince George is very welcoming to the film industry.”