It's a wrap for Movie Monday after 26 years
by Jeff Bell, Times Colonist, 16 Feb 2021

The screen is going dark for Movie Monday, which entertained people with weekly films for just over 26 years.

The man behind the impressive streak is Bruce Saunders, who turned his own experience with mental-health issues into a regular event for others in the same situation. He said he got started on June 14, 1993, with his first movie showing at the Victoria Mental Health Centre's Eric Martin Pavilion, where there was a room with video projector. It was the main venue from then on.

"I thought everybody from the psych ward would come down," he said.

Bruce Saunders, with some of his DVDs, started Movie Monday in 1993 at the Eric Martin Pavillion after he was treated for mental-health issues. The weekly screenings started out with patients and ex-patients, but soon drew in the broader community. photo by Darren Stone, Times Colonist

Saunders, who is bipolar, said he spent time on the ward himself.

"A lot of people, during and after they're hospitalized, don't have much of a chance to see well-chosen stuff," he said. "They were just home channel surfing and watching any old junk that was on TV."

Movie Monday began with patients and ex-patients, but soon "broadened out" to include people in the community, Saunders said.

That made for a "healthier and more active" outing for everyone, he said.

Over the years, crowds of about 60 in the 100-seat theatre were common, and they sometimes grew to overflow crowds of 120 or more. Saunders said a mention in the Times Colonist would always ensure a full house.

The COVID-19 pandemic is behind the decision to stop, since it has meant the number of movie-goers had to be curtailed.

"That makes a dozen people sitting in a 100-seat theatre, which is pretty lame."

Saunders said he will continue to offer viewing suggestions at

Efforts were made during movie nights to give something extra to the audience, he said. "A lot of what made Movie Monday special was the context we added to the film."

Visitors included Stewart Stern, who spoke on his screenplays on two occasions - once about Sybil and then about Rachel, Rachel. There was also Rebecca Jenkins singing songs from her star turn in the movie Bye Bye Blues.

Local resident Olive Bailey was on hand during the showing of the documentary Codebreaker because she was part of the Bletchley Park codebreaking team during the Second World War, and Anne Moon did her part by dressing as a mother superior for a showing of The Sound of Music.

Saunders said he is pleased with how Movie Monday turned out over the years.

"It's easy to envision things," he said. "It's a little bit harder to make them come true."

He thanked the volunteers and board members involved, especially Bruce Wallace, along with the Canada Council for the Arts and Island Health.