Five years ago the town of Virden was a buzz with the big Hollywood movie production of A Dog’s Purpose. The movie starred Dennis Quaid and was a big box office hit, grossing over $64 million in North America alone.
For this week’s road trip feature we’re going to travel to Virden and re-visit a few of the locations that were the setting for this famous film.
Virden Manitoba is just 45 minutes west of Brandon on the Trans Canada highway. The town itself is south of the highway and the CPR rail tracks run right thru it.
The movie was filmed on 7th Avenue at Nelson Street. While some of the storefronts were outfitted with movie props and neon signs, you can absolutely recognize the buildings in the movie. Whether it’s the front alcove of Shari Lyn Fashions, or the bright blue frame of Pitter Patter, the buildings they will catch your eye in the movie. (Visit YouTube for this behind the scenes glimpse into the movie making. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t2jrU_I6TGE
It seems clear that Virden was chosen as a filming location to stand in for a 1950s era town for its outstanding preservation and collection of historic buildings. You don’t have to walk far to see ghost signs (turn of the century painted on advertisements) on buildings or a restored CPR hotel in downtown Virden.
On Nelson Street, and across from the Old CPR Station, you will see the Alexandra Hotel. Build in 1907 and renovated as recently at 2016, it boasts the original round-arched windows and brick work which was a signature of Canadian Pacific Hotels.
The gorgeous fieldstone railway station itself is home to the Virden Chamber of Commerce and Arts Council. In the parking lot you’ll see a retired rail car but also a very modern electric car charging station.
While in Virden, you may wish to stop and snap a few photos in the community gardens and parks. Virden takes a lot of pride in their public spaces. There’s a picnic park downtown on Nelson Street, a sitting garden on King Street (just off the Trans Canada Highway) and a community recreation park (Victoria Park) with tennis courts, lawn bowling, swings and a band shell. Do stop by and see the war memorial in the centre of Victoria Park.
As for hidden gem in Virden, find T’s Dining & Lounge for upscale dining. It’s on Nelson Street a block away from the Derrick Theatre. Incidentally, the Derrick Theatre, which has hosted movie goers since the 1950s, is for sale. Listed by Sutton Realty its asking price is $399,999. It would be fantastic to see this town’s movie legacy continue whether it’s hosting new movie shoots or reviving the one-screen theatre.
Virden is worth a drive. To fully enjoy this fun drive and a movie experience, watch A Dog’s Purpose first, then travel to Virden. For a movie double-header also catch the sequel, A Dog’s Journey (filmed in Winnipeg and released in the big screen in 2019). The sequel was equally successful at the box office bringing in more than 75 million dollars world-wide. These movies have been a beacon for attracting new movie making projects to Manitoba. Even in Covid times, Hallmark has chose to film their latest Christmas here in this province. Seems we have more star power here than just the northern lights.
For more tourist information or to plan your visit go to Virden.ca