Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! – The Yukon Theatre has been closed since the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Yukon Theatre to come back to life

What’s old is about to become new again ... sort of.

By Tim Giilck on November 22, 2021

What’s old is about to become new again ... sort of.

Yukoners are getting ready for a blast from the past as the Yukon Film Society is launching a limited reopening of a re-imagined Yukon Theatre on Wood Street.

Andrew Connors, the society’s artistic director, spoke to the Star this morning about the project, which will see a five-month trial exploring the viability of re-establishing it an entertainment hub.

Both Yukon theatres were sold a few months ago by the Landmark corporation to an unidentified buyer.

Connors said the new owner, who the society is working with, is a numbered corporation out of Richmond, B.C., with local ties.

He said the owners are very interested in and love the Whitehorse area, and eventually might move here.

They have no intention of pulling down the buildings to construct anything like a multiplex. Connors said that kind of operation doesn’t really suit the market, and certainly wouldn’t be something the film society would be involved with.

The plan is to offer the theatre’s availability one or two weeks a month at the moment, and offer a mixture of first-run “big” films such as Dune and Spencer, and more modest films in keeping with the society’s current offerings, such as documentaries.

At the moment, tickets are likely to be limited to 25 seats a showing, Connors said. That’s an interesting scenario for the movie-starved public that hasn’t had a chance to go to the movies locally for 18 months.

If the Yukon government ends its state of emergency on Dec. 3, as currently planned, it would make it easier to increase to full capacity, he said.

“Our aim is not to return the cinema to what it was,” he said. “But we think it can be something beautiful.”

As anyone who has been to either of the theatres will remember, they need a lot of work – something Connors readily acknowledged. He said film-goers might well remember the gloriously-shabby conditions far more than the movies.

“Things are dirty,” he readily acknowledged.

That’s something that will take a while to change, although work has already begun. The grubby carpeting has been cleaned, and the society has its eyes on the grungy seating next. All of the seats in one of the auditoriums will be fixed and cleaned up by opening, he said.

More clean-up will occur elsewhere in the building, including the washrooms, but the public shouldn’t expect a wholesale refurbishment to begin with, Connors said.

The five-month initial period will give the society a chance to better evaluate the building and to raise funds for its renovation, if things go well.

“We’re working to make it financially viable,” Connors said. “We think it could be a beautiful place.”

The audio will be upgraded to surround-sound.

As a non-profit group, the society can access government funding, among other streams.

He was heading into a board meeting this afternoon to discuss further details, including ticket pricing and schedules. Connors said he was likely going to be able to provide more details tomorrow.

So far, the public reaction has been exceedingly positive.

The society made the announcement on social media Friday, and it’s “gone Yukon viral,” Connors said with a chuckle. “It’s been 99 per cent positive.”

The reaction, he agreed, is not entirely unlike the enthusiasm for the new Dairy Queen that’s tentatively slated to open in February.

“There’s definitely an element of nostalgia to it,” Connors said.

Comments (19)

Up 0 Down 1

Brian Eaton on Dec 7, 2021 at 4:26 pm

I can't believe the negativity, distrust and cynicism of these comments. This is an honest and sincere effort stemming from a community-based organization that has been bringing quality film alternatives to comic-book Hollywood blockbusters to Yukon audiences for years. Stop looking for conspiracies everywhere, and be happy that someone is taking steps to make quality entertainment available to those who appreciate and support it. This is a major ground-breaking move by the Yukon Film Society, that will benefit the entire community.

Up 1 Down 0

Dado khloe on Dec 1, 2021 at 2:29 am

hi! My opinion is I agree with everyone, we do need new movie theatre’s. Would be nice to have an updated and classy theatre like other city’s. These theatres need renovation or a new building all together if you have financial support. Would be nice, since Whitehorse is growing and newer other buildings coming up, why not our theatre, be great for the future and children and family, that likes going there on weekends, like we all did! Would Love to see something new and different! Does need change! My opinion and thought.

Up 6 Down 4

moe on Nov 28, 2021 at 11:36 am

Who are the beneficial owners of the numbered company, which is based in Richmond, 'with local ties'? Is this purchase an investor class nominee situation?

NVD got their building completely renovated by the government at the Innovation Center, and now rents it to the government. Win-win. For NVD.

There are a lot of big bucks going to people who already have big bucks. The public deserves to know what the H is going on when our money is being invested in property owned by others. The people involved in this project darn well know who owns the property. What is the big secret? Why is this information being withheld from the public? It's completely unacceptable that the public should not know who we are giving grant money to, ie; who all the beneficiaries are. Too many closed book deals in this territory!

Up 5 Down 2

Jackman on Nov 27, 2021 at 2:27 pm

Man, I thought that the commenters on this site were all knowing. Drop the anti-NVD whining. Stop the complaining about the small government grant. Perhaps people should put down the keyboard and look around what is happening in the Yukon right now: lots of offshore money is buying up Yukon commercial properties. There has been a run up of residential land over the past decade, now you will see a serious rise in commercial properties. Wake up and realize what is happening here.

Up 9 Down 2

Jack on Nov 27, 2021 at 1:30 am

To me, this transaction doesn't make any economic sense. The Star should be trying to uncover the owners of this numbered company and why all the secrecy?

Up 9 Down 3

I'll support this! on Nov 26, 2021 at 8:12 am

Old movie theatres in much worse shape have been cleaned up and renovated (at least we don't have rats here, like Portland and Seattle). I hope this is successful, and kudos to those involved for taking it on.

Up 8 Down 9

CJ2 on Nov 24, 2021 at 6:32 pm

This is awesome, a nice change from the usual monotonous news. $35,000 is hardly extravagant. It would be great if they can do a decent reno and salvage the building. If anyone can pull this off, it's Andrew Connors.

Up 13 Down 12

TMYK on Nov 24, 2021 at 9:40 am

I would bet money that NVD bought these through a numbered company. The Liberals will pour money to their corporate masters.

Up 16 Down 8

Crunch on Nov 24, 2021 at 8:13 am

Just some words of caution: when "artistic types" start talking about business ventures and making something "financially viable" your **** detector should be on the rise. We have 50 years of solid Yukon evidence of failed ventures with government money and low and behold here comes another one. Ranj, a guy like you should know better but I see you'll jump on any bandwagon and it's getting more frequent.

Up 8 Down 22

Josey Wales on Nov 24, 2021 at 1:33 am

If they are soliciting for a name, Sima Screen would work yes or yes?
Then all the propaganda films, brought to us by the SS could be viewed at the SS by all their street soldiers.
If you think a movie theatre funded by the YLP won’t run propaganda flicks, you may be the reason the SS is here.

This post brought to you by the letter S.

Up 7 Down 10

Merle Carlick on Nov 24, 2021 at 1:08 am

You need to step up and build a Dolby Atmos theater. You know the one that has 52 speakers and 11 subwoofers. Go to Los Angeles and do some research.

Up 12 Down 3

Eastwood on Nov 23, 2021 at 4:40 pm

Andy, renovations a building you don’t own is foolish. You can’t clean the acrid stank out of the walls, floors and chairs.

I’d suggest building something new. Between public grants, donations, sweat equity and crowd funding you could build a pretty nice custom place with a nice revenue stream for mainstream movies but with the main focus on local theatre and the Arts.

I’ll be the first in line to pitch in $500

Up 5 Down 9

TheHammer on Nov 23, 2021 at 3:32 pm

Theatre in a pandemic, you're kidding me. And what are we going to watch, American blood and thunder?

Up 19 Down 2

Crunch on Nov 23, 2021 at 3:02 pm

@ Anie
Nailed it! No one bright enough in government to stay out of a boondoggle. These people would sell their grandmother for a vote.

Up 26 Down 5

Anie on Nov 23, 2021 at 2:44 pm

Let the free money begin to flow. This building was disgusting long before it closed, and no amount of shampoo will get people to tread on those carpets. If smart people thought Yukoners would support a modern theatre, one would have been built by private industry in the last two decades. This will be a taxpayers money pit, catering to an "artistic" few.

Up 21 Down 3

WeWantMovies on Nov 23, 2021 at 7:29 am

With a population that would support it, a new movie house is in order. I find it incredible that we have had these substandard cinemas for years and years and now we have nothing.

Up 39 Down 3

Himbo on Nov 23, 2021 at 6:33 am

Used to work at both theatres, both are infested for mice, black mold. And years of spit and vomit everywhere. Not worth saving. Tear it down!

Up 20 Down 0

martin on Nov 22, 2021 at 5:07 pm

@unidentified buyer: Your reading must be better than mine; unless YG has a number Co in Richmond

Up 22 Down 22

unidentified buyer. on Nov 22, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Oh come on, are we really acting like YG isn’t the ones buying up these lots for more chicken coop housing?

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