Bell Media president Randy Lennox, who began working with Gord Downie almost 30 years ago when he was at Universal Music Canada (then MCA), has moved up the airing of Long Time Running — the emotional documentary chronicling The Tragically Hip’s farewell tour in the summer of 2016 — for this Friday, Oct. 20. Downie, 53, succumbed to brain cancer on Tuesday night.
The singer was a national treasure whose death has put Canada in mourning and moved Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Downie’s friend, to tears.
The 95-minute film, which was directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas De Pencier and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in mid-September, will air commercial free. It was scheduled to debut on television in mid-November.
In an email this morning, Lennox told Billboard he is “working on a US air opportunity as we speak. I’ve been laser-focused on Canada so far.” (The doc already has a streaming home lined up in the U.S., with Netflix.)
Lennox was working in marketing, promotion and sales at MCA in 1988 when he first met Downie and the rest of The Tragically Hip, which was signed to the label, adding the two were “very close from minute one.” Lennox became president and CEO of Universal and left in 2015 to join Bell.
Accompanying the formal press release announcing the new air date for Long Time Running was a signed letter from Lennox:
“Once in a generation an artist comes along who makes an impact so strong, they touch the heart of the nation. That was Gord Downie,” it reads. “Gord and The Tragically Hip’s connection to our company goes back to their very first video, ‘Small Town Bringdown,’ whose play on MuchMusic helped start their careers. And our radio stations, of course, have been intricately involved with this beloved band for decades.
“That’s why it is such an honour for us to pay tribute to Gord’s extraordinary legacy by advancing the premiere date of Long Time Running, our poignant and emotional inside look at last summer’s final Hip tour to this Friday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
“With respect to the incredible outpouring of emotion following his passing, we will air it uninterrupted and commercial-free.”
The documentary will air again on Nov. 12 on CTV before it begins streaming on CraveTV.
Commissioned by Bell Media, the film was produced by Banger Films’ Scot McFadyen (Hip-Hop Evolution, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage) and Rachel McLean, in association with Shed Creative (a division of Universal Music Canada). Executive producers are The Tragically Hip’s co-managers Bernie Breen and Patrick Sambrook; Banger’s Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn; Lennox; Universal Music Canada president Jeffrey Remedios, and Shed’s Dave Harris, Elevation Pictures’ Naveen Prasad, and Jeremy Smith. Music consultant is Bell Media’s Tyson Parker, formerly of Universal.
“Canadians from across the country are grieving the passing of this extraordinary individual, and in consultation with the band, we thought this was the right time to share with fans this intimate peek into last summer’s tour,” Lennox said in a statement. “Gord Downie’s talent, passion, and heart made this country a better place. Gord, we miss you already.”