Take 2 for Whitehorse’s ‘iconic’ cinema, as the film company takes over

The intermission will soon end at the Yukon Theater in Whitehorse, according to the Yukon Film Society.

The nonprofit has just signed a lease to take over the aging and long-disused facility, and the goal is to turn on a projector in a matter of weeks.

“It’s an iconic building. I know this is really important to a lot of Yukoners. A lot of people have, you know, a lot of great memories there, ”said Andrew Connors, artistic director of the company.

“But I think for the film company it’s kind of the next step in our evolution.”

The facility, along with the other movie theater in the Yukon, has been closed since the start of the pandemic. When former owner Landmark Cinemas said a few months ago that the theaters had been sold, some locals wondered if the wrecking ball was on the way.

Connors said the film company has a lot of work to do in the coming months to craft a viable long-term plan.

“We’ve given ourselves roughly five months to run the theater part-time,” he said. “We want to see what people’s response is.”

“Let’s face it, the city needs a cinema,” said Andrew Connors of the Yukon Film Society. (Paul Tukker / CBC)

The plan is to show films for two weeks each month, starting in December. Connors hopes to open the doors for the first two-week stay on December 3, but he admits that could change depending on public health restrictions and the territory’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

The revived theater would screen a mix of big budget dishes such as Dune Where Spencer, as well as “the classic art and fiction documentaries that we make at the Yukon Arts Center on a pretty, you know, semi-regular basis,” Connors said.

The theater would also serve as an additional venue for the film company’s annual Available Light Film Festival, something Connors has long had on his wishlist.

“A dream come true if it is viable”

The five-month trial period will give the company time to develop a longer-term business plan. Connors envisions a 250-seat single-screen theater with one stage and “as big a cinema screen as we can fit” (there are two screens right now, but Connors says they will only use one. one in the next month).

He also hopes that it will not only be a movie theater, but ultimately become a kind of multi-purpose community art space.

“It would be a dream come true if it were viable … that’s the goal.”

The building dates from 1954 and Connors said he hasn’t seen many renovations or improvements since then. Many Whitehorse residents remember the dilapidated condition of the theater more than the movies they saw there.

Part of what the nonprofit film company will be doing over the next few months is figuring out what renovations need to be done and how they might raise the necessary funds.

“You know, it’s an accessibility report, an energy audit, we’re going to look at the structure of the building – like what is it going to take and how much is it going to cost? Connors said.

In the meantime, the infamous filthy carpets have just been cleaned, he said.

“We’re going to, you know, just give it some attention that, you know, maybe it hasn’t had in a few years… really, the end goal is this renovation, and turning it into something is a kind of a gem in the community, ”Connors said.

“Let’s face it, the city needs a cinema.”

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