If you’re looking to check out an arthouse flick this summer, there may be no need to head down to your local theatre.

In Gimli, Man., they’ll be watching movies on the beach. In Windsor, Ont., films will unspool at a local winery, while cinema fans in Hubbards, N.S., will watch the action play out in a barn. It’s part of a Toronto International Film Festival program designed to bring lesser-known films to smaller communities.

“People don’t want to sit in a dark cinema while the sun is out,” says Robin Rhodes, senior manager of the Film Circuit, a volunteer-driven roadshow funded by Telefilm Canada and TIFF sponsors.

“Even when they do go to the cinema during the summer, it’s always sort of the really big blockbuster sort of films that are out there.”

The Film Circuit works with roughly 200 organizations to bring films year-round to about 160 smaller communities that wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see foreign, avant-garde or homegrown indie projects.

Its biggest seasons are fall and spring, since getting folks to the theatre in summer has traditionally been a hard sell, says Rhodes, noting much of the Film Circuit’s targeted audience heads on vacation or prefers to spend time with family during the hotter months.

But things have changed in recent years as the circuit teams up with small film festivals and ventures into favourite summertime locales, he says.

The Film Circuit group in Windsor is one of the best-attended summer screening programs in the country, with outdoor sessions taking place this year at the Colio Estate Wines and the Sprucewood Estate Winery.

“They have portable 35-millimetre equipment and they just roll it out to wineries and bus people out there and do this whole sort of wine and hors d’oeuvres kind of thing,” says Rhodes.

Other communities are incorporating film-viewing into their beach fun. Manitoba’s Gimli Film Festival in Gimli (running July 24-28) and the Beach Blanket Film Festival in Penticton, B.C. (July 17-19) will each set up a screen offshore.“People just sort of show up down at the lake and they watch a movie projected out on the lake which is kind of cool,” says Rhodes.

It’s easy to see the appeal of taking films out of the multiplex, says Rhodes, noting that many of the outdoor events are free. “For so long, people have been sitting in the dark together in theatres and sort of quietly watching movies,” says Rhodes.

“If you’re not watching movies at home, you’re watching them in a theatre and that’s pretty much it and that sort of drive-in experience is gone. I would argue that people are missing that sort of alternate venue.... We’re Canadians, we’re butchered most of the year with the winter and to be able to sort of sit outside I think is a desirable thing.”

More details
• Wherever you’re heading around Ontario (or Canada) this summer, you probably won’t be that far from a Film Circuit screening. Just go to www.filmcircuit.ca, then click on Schedule to see the cross-country lineup. If you only want to see what’s playing around Ontario, click on Province and scroll down to see all the relevant listings. Ontario communities hosting screenings include — to name but a few — Picton, Meaford, Barrie, Haliburton, Orillia, Huntsville, Brockville and Belleville.

• The event at Colio Estate Wines takes place on Sat., July 25. Visit www.windsorfilmfestival.ca and click on Monthly Screenings for more information.

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