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Do the films that come to Sarnia lack ethnic diversity?

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Troy Shantz

A city couple has been lobbying the management of Galaxy Cinemas to bring more ethnically diverse movies to Sarnia.

As many as 10 acclaimed films with leading African-American actors or directors — including Get Out, Selma, Moonlight and Detroit — have come and gone without a single screening in the city, say Tom Levy and Deryn Ramirez.

Deryn Ramirez

“It happened with one and then another… and it just seems to be a trend,” said Ramirez.

“Why aren’t these movies shown in Sarnia?”

Another miss was the award-winning Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant women-of-colour who were instrumental in NASA’s race to launch astronaut John Glenn into space.

“Without these three individuals crunching numbers… they never could have got to the moon,” Levy said. “And they were never credited with it.”

The recent success of Black Panther notwithstanding, Levy and Ramirez said they became aware of a diversity gap after comparing films available to Sarnia audiences to those in other markets, especially Florida.

Tom Levy

“The common ground for these movies is they featured black artists,” Ramirez said.

Levy has taken his case to the head office of Cineplex, which owns and operates Galaxy Cinemas in Sarnia and 162 other Canadian cinemas.

Sarah Van Lange, the company’s head of communication, said ethnicity is not a factor when choosing films for the local audience.

“(We’re) in the business of showing content that people want to see,” she said. “If there’s an audience for it, it’s in our best interest to show it.”

Van Lange said a team combs through available films each week and considers variables such as demographics and screen types, such as AVX and 3D experiences.

She acknowledged Levy and Ramirez’s concerns, but said if the cinema screenings do lack diversity it’s unintentional.

“That’s a larger discussion for the industry as a whole,” she added.

But Levy said Cineplex should make an effort to address under-representation, regardless of its selection model.

“That’s still the same conversation,” he said.

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