Village 8 goes digital 

Whistler's theatre converts, signalling it's sticking around

click to enlarge Whistler Readers and Writers Festival
  • Whistler Readers and Writers Festival

While plummeting attendance has contributed to the shuttering of several southern B.C. movie theatres in the last year, Whistler's Village 8 Cinema has been spared, owners recently announced.

The theatre's projection system will be converted from film to the new industry standard digital equipment offering assurance that it will remain open for some time. A selection of screens will also be equipped to show 3D movies, said David Corwin, president of Metropolitan Theatres, which owns Village 8 and recently closed the Garibaldi 5 theatre in Squamish.

"They're just not going to be making 35 mm prints anymore," Corwin said. "It's necessary to upgrade to digital projection to ensure availability to content. The technology will continually evolve, but (we) will be able to upgrade and adjust to newer technology should it provide what we need in the future."

While the company is still "finalizing the installation timeline," Corwin added the conversion should be done by the end of the year. They plan is to install the new equipment afterhours to avoid disrupting regular movie screenings.

Metropolitan Theatres closed the doors of Squamish's only theatre back in August. Shortly after, Churchill Property Corp., which owns the mall that used to house the theatre, launched a lawsuit against the company, claiming it owes over $700,000 in unpaid rent.

Corwin said that while the lease at their Squamish location was "problematic" the situation in Whistler is different. "Like many retailers in Whistler, (we've) been hurt by decreased visitors, but, nonetheless, the movie theatre is an important part of the Village and the long-term prospects are, hopefully, good," he said.

Shauna Hardy Mishaw, executive director for the Whistler Film Festival, said the theatre has limitations as a venue for the festival — namely, its small capacity — but the new technology will benefit the event in coming years. "It means that we will not have to cover technology costs to use the venue and that we can screen more films in the venue during the festival," she wrote in an e-mail. "It will be good for WFF for industry and press screenings and repeat screenings, primarily."

The announcement came just weeks before organizers of the Vancouver International Film Festival revealed that event might not survive the closure of the Empire Theatres Granville 7 cinema, which served as the main venue for the festival screenings. The Granville theatre is slated to close on Nov. 4, a date chosen to avoid impacting this year's installment of the festival. Owners attributed the closure to a decrease in ticket sales over the last few years.

Metropolitan Theatres, meanwhile, will convert 82 screens in theatres across North America from film to digital by the end of the year. Virtual print fees will largely cover the cost for the new technology. The funding model helps theatres pay for the conversion from film to digital by using a third party that pays the upfront costs then recoups the money from film distributors who save on digital distribution.

By the numbers

The numbers are in and they add up to success for the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival. The event saw a 39 per cent spike in attendance this year compared to its 2011 installment.

In total, 546 people came out over the weekend, with over half return attendees from past years. Two out of three reading events were sold out on Saturday while workshop attendance overall was up by 32 per cent.

Series starts

Last January, the Pique told you about Andy Dittrich, a resident who was assisting with filming in Nepal for a six-part nature documentary for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet Canada. The show, Biggest and Baddest, is finally set to air beginning on Oct. 24th. Check your local listings for the time.

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