Whistler’s Village 8 Cinemas were vandalized this week, causing "significant property damage" to the former theatre space just days before its planned revival for the 2023 Whistler Film Festival (WFF), according to organizers.
In a statement Friday, Nov. 24, WFF executive director Angela Heck said organizers were “deeply disappointed” to learn of the extensive damage.
“Many people worked hard to get the theatres back in operation for the Whistler community for the 2023 film festival and we are heartbroken with this senseless act of vandalism,” she continued. “But WFF is resilient and we are working with the property owner and manager to restore the cinemas for this year’s festival, as originally planned.”
In a statement, Whistler RCMP confirmed it received a report of a break-and-enter to Village 8 just before 9 a.m. on Monday morning, Nov. 20. Attending officers noted "multiple areas" that had been spray-painted, said Cpl. Nate Miller, along with a broken window and "fire extinguishers that had [been] deployed and discarded."
Police said investigators managed to seize "some incriminating evidence" left behind at the scene. The matter remains under investigation.
Shuttered by former operator Imagine Cinemas in January, Whistler’s sole movie theatre was set to reopen its doors in time for the 23rd annual WFF next week. Rick Amantea, VP of development and community relations for Larco, which owns the cinema space, told Pique assessments are still being done to determine the full extent of the damage.
“Some of it is general vandalism: things being damaged and spray-painted in the cinemas. Some of the film equipment … has been damaged as well, and we have to ascertain to what degree that is,” he explained. “Generally speaking, it’s significant enough to cause us a lot of concern and certainly couldn’t have happened at a worst time because of the film festival getting ready to ramp up.”
Heck with the WFF assured the theatre would be ready to go in time for Village 8’s first planned screening on Nov, 30, the extreme sports documentary, Human X.
“The show is going on,” she said in a follow-up email.
In the meantime, Larco and the property's manager have agreed to waive the festival’s rental fee to utilize the space.
“Whistler Village Centre, and us as a parent company, we recognize when matters like this happen, we all need to step up and do what we can to help support and facilitate a great community cause like the film festival, so we have waived any request for the festival to pay rent,” Amantea said. “They can still operate out of the cinema and we’re supporting them in any way we can.”
While he deferred to police to determine any possible motives behind the property damage, Amantea said, despite the timing, it appears as though the vandalism wasn’t specifically targeted at the film festival.
“From our perspective, it looks like it was a random kind of nonsensical approach to damaging stuff. It does not look like it was targeted,” he noted. “We’re very dissapointed in what occurred and we are going to work closely with local authorities to ensure those people involved in this matter atone for it.”
In the wake of the incident, Heck encouraged anyone looking to support the WFF to attend a screening, view the festival online from Dec 4 to 17, or make a donation.
She also noted that organizers have acquired a special occasion licence to sell concessions, including beer and popcorn, during the festival.
Learn more at whistlerfilmfestival.com.
This article has been updated since publication.