Deep in the serene forests of Kinmount, Ontario, a small movie theatre stands tall, a beacon of cinematic passion defying the odds. Highlands Cinemas is the creation of Keith Stata, a man whose dedication to film knows no bounds. His remarkable story unfolds in the documentary “The Movie Man,” a journey revealing not just his solitary quest, but the very fabric of the movie industry itself.
For five years, Canadian filmmaker Matt Finlin lived and breathed the world of Highlands Cinemas. His lens captured the essence of this tiny theatre and the iron will of its owner. From its earliest days as a dream taking shape, to a vibrant community hub – Highlands Cinemas reflects the motion picture’s own turbulent history.
Join us on a cinematic adventure, unravelling the tale of “The Movie Man.” Witness an ode to the enduring magic of the silver screen and one man who simply refused to let it die.
The Protagonist: Keith Stata and Highlands Cinemas
In the rugged wilderness of Kinmount, Ontario, an unexpected oasis shines – Highlands Cinemas. This quirky movie theatre is the life’s work of Keith Stata, a true film visionary with an unbreakable dream. For over 40 years, the now 75-year-old Stata has poured his passion into creating a cinematic experience unlike any other.
What makes Highlands so special is the boundless devotion of its owner. Stata built his beloved theatre from the ground up in 1979 with little more than a love of movies. Through tireless effort, the original single screen has grown into a treasured five-screen gem.
Operating seasonally with a laid-back charm, the theatre contends with remote realities most cinemas never face. Staff shortages, unpredictable weather, and aging facilities are routine challenges. Yet Stata’s enthusiasm remains undimmed – his reverence for the art of film only deepens with time.
More than just movies grace Highlands’ whimsical halls. Complementing an eclectic rotation of screenings is Stata’s wondrous personal collection – a nostalgic museum housing projectors from cinema history, collected from Canadian cinemas. His ingenuity shines through quirky design choices that make every visit unique.
Adding to the theatre’s magic are its true stars – all 42 resident cats. With gentle creatures roaming the aisles under Stata’s devoted care, audiences delight in this distinctly feline touch of charm. It’s a reflection of the owner himself – delightfully unconventional yet deeply endearing. Highlands Cinemas is living proof that unwavering passion can turn even the most far-flung dream into a treasured reality.
The Filmmaker: Matt Finlin’s Journey
Matt Finlin is a filmmaker who has been enchanted by the silver screen since childhood. He grew up in Toronto and his passion ignited at the age of 12 when he stumbled across Highlands Cinemas and a screening of Terminator 2. Little did Finlin know this chance encounter would shape a lifelong love affair with movie-making – and lead to a fateful collaboration with Keith Stata himself.
As co-founder of Door Knocker Media in Toronto, Finlin’s professional and personal lives have always intertwined through cinema. By mastering his craft in commercials and specialty films, he was able to channel his creativity into compelling stories. During a visit to his parents’ lake house near Kinmount, he got the idea to document the enigmatic Stata.
What began as a casual inquiry soon became an all-consuming mission as Finlin immersed himself in the Highlands Cinemas. With unwavering dedication, he chronicled Stata’s remarkable journey through an intimate lens, determined to authentically capture every triumphant high and heartbreaking low.
Despite daunting obstacles like the COVID-19 pandemic, Finlin pressed on, balancing his passionate documentary project with his professional obligations. His perseverance paid off in “The Movie Man” – a poignant tribute to the transformative magic of cinema and one man’s tenacious dream. With this declaration of love, Finlin invites audiences into the enchanting world of Highlands Cinemas to experience its spellbinding charm.
A Labor of Love: Filmmaking and Musical Score
It took more than a camera to bring Matt Finlin’s cinematic vision to life – it called for an evocative musical score by Kevin Drew of indie rock fame. As co-founder of Broken Social Scene, Drew was the perfect fit to capture the nostalgic spirit of Highlands Cinemas through hauntingly beautiful melodies.
For Drew, scoring “The Movie Man” was far more than just a job – it was a chance to pay tribute to the magic of moviegoing itself. Drawing on his own childhood memories, Drew composed a transcendent soundtrack that captures the complex emotions of Keith Stata’s dream. Lush orchestrations and sweeping themes underscore the triumphs and heartbreaks at the centre of this compelling story.
As we immerse ourselves in Finlin’s intimate lens and Drew’s lush musical narrative, we’re reminded of the unique power of cinema. The profound interplay of visuals and music can transform the ordinary into something extraordinary, just as Stata elevated his beloved Highlands. Drew’s score is the perfect aural companion for Finlin’s poignant journey – a modern maestro honouring the screen’s most timeless enchantments.
Through Matt Finlin’s intimate lens, we’re invited beyond the marquee lights and into the theatre’s vibrant soul. From the most humble of single-screen beginnings to its status today as a treasured community landmark, Highlands transcends the ordinary moviegoing experience. It has become a sanctuary for the senses and a reminder of cinema’s transformation ability.
With “The Movie Man,” Finlin reminds us why we must preserve such singular legacies in our rapidly changing world. Highlands Cinemas is proof that one man’s unbreakable passion can elevate the mundane into magic. As the credits roll, we leave inspired to seek out beauty in unexpected places – beacons of light shining through the darkness.