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Film and TV

Lance Mackey documentary returns to Alaska for big-screen showing

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published January 18, 2016

Almost a year after several sold-out showings in Anchorage, "The Great Alone" could be coming to more theaters in Alaska.

The Lance Mackey documentary is scheduled for Feb. 9 screenings at movie theaters in Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and Wasilla. But while the showings are scheduled, they aren't set in stone.

Director Greg Kohs said trying to get a film released in theaters is expensive. So he's using TheatriCast, which occupies a sort of middle ground. Kohs said screenings are scheduled in advance all around the country but only occur if people buy a certain number of tickets online ahead of the showing.

The film, which profiles the rise of the four-time Iditarod and Yukon Quest sled dog champion during the 2013 race, premiered last year at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub to sold-out showings. But beyond a few previews, the film has only had a few select screenings around the state.

Over the last year, Kohs took the film on the festival circuit, often with Mackey and his lead dog, Amp. The film has received several awards, including the grand jury award at the Seattle International Film Festival and grand prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Kohs said audience response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"The only thing that would be somewhat is negative, and not even a bummer, really, is that people just want to see it," Kohs said.

Kohs thinks the film may have helped lift Mackey's sprits after a disappointing Iditarod finish in 2015, when he finished in 43rd place and had two dogs die during the race. Mackey raced in the Kuskokwim 300 over the weekend, finishing in 17th place out of 21 mushers.

Kohs said Mackey was often asked during Q&As after the screenings if he would run again. Mackey generally said no, Kohs said, until one "amazing screening" that included a standing ovation.

"Maybe he made that decision before (the screening) but it turned along the way," Kohs said. "I'm not sure if part of that is the experience of the film or his just needing to recover from a pretty rough last year."

Kohs is working out details on a digital release of the film in the coming weeks. He said he's planning to have it available before the Iditarod starts March 5. Mackey is signed up to race for the 14th time.

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