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Controversial anti-abortion film to be shown in private screenings in Kelowna amidst theatre cancellations

It is an anti-abortion film that has stirred up a lot of controversy in the Okanagan and across the country.

Called Unplanned, the movie is about to make its Canadian debut and it has led to protests, petitions and threats of boycotts if the film is shown.

As a result, numerous theatres in Canada have decided to cancel screenings.

WATCH MORE: Anti-abortion movie ‘Unplanned’ to play in more than 24 Canadian theatres

Anti-abortion activist and executive director of the Kelowna Right to Life Society Marlon Bartram is disappointed that some theatres have decided to bow down to public pressure.

“I wish they wouldn’t, I wish they would stand firm but theatres have a right to show what movies they want to show and a right not to show what movies they don’t want to show,” he said.

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But pro-choice groups said no theatre should be showing the movie.

“I think the movie should have been banned and I think it is actually irresponsible of theatres showing this movie to the public because it legitimizes this view, this attack on women’s rights,” said Joyce Arthur executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC).

The movie is about a planned parenthood clinic director in Texas who becomes an anti-abortion activist after a life-changing experience while assisting an abortion.

Bartram has watched the movie in its entirety. He said that the side that favours abortion being legal is simply worried that the film may shift public opinion about abortion.

“It is a powerful movie, it does have the potential to change a person’s mind about abortion, especially those who are sitting on the fence, who are not entirely committed one way or another,” he told Global News. “Movies, as we know, can cause cultural shifts, they can change public opinion on certain matters.”

But the ARCC said releasing the movie is disturbing because it will likely create a wave of hate towards anyone who is pro-choice or in the field of providing abortions.

“It [the movie] is full of falsehood, it misrepresents abortion, it demonizes abortion providers and we are quite worried this is going to cause a rise in harassment of providers…health centres, even pro-choice activists,’ Arthur said.

The Salmar Grand theatre in Salmon Arm has decided to pull the movie. So has Grand 10 Landmark Cinemas in Kelowna.

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But Landmark Cinemas CEO Bill Walker told Global News the decision was not based on any controversy but simply part of the regular-decision making process about which movies to screen.

He acknowledged however, that there’s been more feedback from both sides of the debate in Kelowna area than other markets.

Despite the controversy, more than 40 theatres will be rolling out the film nationwide, 14 of those Cineplex theatres.

Cineplex Theatres CEO Ellis Jacobs defended the decision on social media saying, “I understand and can appreciate the concerns about the film….but it’s up to each of us to decide whether or not we want to see it. In Canada we have that option and I think it is an important thing to remember.”

Okanagan residents can still check out the film. The Right to Life Society has bought out two theatres for two evenings and is selling tickets for private screenings.

The first screening will take place on July 15 at the Grand 10 theatre in Kelowna, the second one will take place on July 17 at the Landmark Xtreme theatre in West Kelowna.