Movie Screening Canceled After Backlash to Director's Plan to Charge White Men Double

Building the Room Poster - Publicity - H 2017
Shiraz Higgins

Director Shiraz Higgins had his theater rental agreement to screen 'Building the Room' on Sept. 28 revoked due to a "prejudicial pricing structure."

A Canadian film screening where white men were to be charged double at the box office has been canceled by the theater operator. 

Evan Roberts, president of Blue Bridge Theatre Society, which runs the Roxy Theater in Victoria, British Columbia, said Tuesday that he has canceled his facility rental agreement with Shiraz Higgins, the director of Building the Room, ahead of the planned Thursday night screening.

Higgins stirred up a media storm last week after proposing that the Roxy charge white men more to see his documentary about stand-up comics. He initially wanted to charge white males $20 to attend the Sept. 28 premiere, while women would pay $10 at the box office, to spotlight the effects of income inequality.

But after an initial media uproar, Higgins lowered the price for "White Cis-Straight Able-Bodied Males" to $15, with everyone else to pay $10.

Roberts said his society "does not believe in, nor does it practice, any form of a prejudicial pricing structure as proposed by Mr. Higgins."

He added the director had breached his contract with the society by imposing a so-called justice pricing structure for his film without the theater's consent. That resulted in "a storm of negative response aimed at Mr. Higgins and BBTS."

"Although it regrets any effect that this decision will have on the several talented artists involved in the making of this film, BBTS feels it cannot support what it sees as irresponsible actions on the part of its organizer," Roberts added. Building the Room is a 70-minute, documentary-style movie that takes viewers behind-the-scenes as a group of local comedians develop and stage a stand-up comedy show.

In the film, comedians Ben Fawcett, Chelsea Lou, Darcy Collins, Myles Anderson, Shane Priestley and Shawn O’Hara work to put together their show in the apartment and workshop of performer and artist Jimbo Insell.

Higgins did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The film's producers have now rescheduled the premiere of Building the Room to Oct. 6, at the Victoria Event Center, while also asking viewers to "pay what you can" at the box office.

Sept. 26, 19:15 p.m. Updated with a new venue and date for the premiere of Building the Room.