When Marco Zunino heard that Village 8, Whistler’s movie theatre, was closing, he had an idea.
Zunino had been working as a venue services coordinator at Arts Whistler for about eight months when he pitched it: why not show movies in the Maury Young Arts Centre’s theatre?
“I’ve got a big passion for film,” he says. “I did a minor in film at university, and it’s always been a bit of an interest for me. With Village 8 announcing they were shutting down and we were losing a cultural activity that brings people together, it seemed like something we needed to do.”
The pitch was quickly accepted, and Arts Whistler decided to add its own twist. First, the films shown every two weeks will be chosen via online voting by locals—and, therefore, dubbed The People’s Film.
On top of that, organizers wanted to make it a night out.
“One of the things we talked about, in typical Arts Whistler fashion, was if we were going to run a film, we wanted it to be an experience, not just a film,” says Mo Douglas, executive director of Arts Whistler.
To that end, screenings will include things like signature cocktails (the evening shows will be 19-plus—though some family-friendly matinees are on the horizon), themed events and costumes.
Translate that to the debut film—the Coen Brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski, set to screen on Feb. 15—and that means White Russians, Wii bowling before the film in the lobby, and—probably—a bunch of people in housecoats.
“Whistler loves to do two things: dress up or get naked,” Douglas says. “At least for this film, we’ll be erring on the side of getting-dressed-up-in-costumes. If nothing else, wear your bathrobe.”
A big goal of the film series—which will likely run until late spring then resume in early fall—is to offer an affordable outing in Whistler. The tickets are $10 or $15 with a signature cocktail added in.
“We want it to feel like a special night out, but also be affordable,” Douglas says. “This is a pretty affordable undertaking for us … We’re doing it at a time when the economy has gotten tight for a lot of folks. We want it to be something you can do—even on a school night.”
Following the debut film, the next is set to screen on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. Moviegoers will have a chance to vote on four films for that date.
“Don’t assume it’s a chick flick, because you know what has a strong female lead? Aliens,” Douglas says.
Tickets for the first screening are available now at artswhistler.com/thepeoplesfilm. Stay tuned to the next selection of films at facebook.com/artswhistler.
“I’m slightly nervous,” Zunino says of the approaching debut. “I haven’t worked in the arts field before. It’s a really interesting process. It’s a fantastic team here. Everyone is so positive.”
If anyone has any theme ideas for movie night, they’re encouraged to reach out, Douglas adds.
“Once we’re in the voting mode we’ll encourage people to send us emails to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got a theme—it could be directors or whacky sci-fi or alternative cult classics,” she says. “But we’re really happy to have the community give us suggestions for what they’d like to see.”