Eight silver screens focus on resort crowd 

Art and foreign films, documentaries and festivals to play in former AlpenRock space

After 35 years in the movie business Marshall Smith has witnessed some dramatic changes.

Back in the old days he recalls the musicals that sang and danced their way across the silver screen.

Nowadays there’s no Gene Kelly slopping through the streets, singing in the rain. The movies of 2002 are expensive and sophisticated and the movie-going public expects a lot for the price of admission.

"The public has seen just about everything nowadays so you have to really come up with something new to please them," he said.

Smith will be bringing Whistler something new this year in the form of an eight-screen theatre in the former home of the AlpenRock.

He’s hoping to deliver his Whistler movie theatre just in time for Christmas, with an opening date scheduled for Dec. 25.

"Everybody is (in Whistler) for the holidays. All the big pictures are out over Christmas. The two go hand in hand," he said.

Smith isn’t launching into unfamiliar territory opening a movie theatre in a resort town. He also owns and runs similar venues in Sun Valley and Aspen and he is currently working out some deals for movie theatres in other resorts.

Smith said he is attuned into the needs of the resort crowd, which he says are different from a typical urban area.

"In resort areas you have a very wealthy strata and we’ve found that it’s a more highly educated populous, " he said.

"Over the years we’ve found that translates into people who not only have a strong interest in the commercial films but also in art films.

"The people that live in resort communities tend to have a broader range of movies that they have an interest in and... we intend to take care of that need."

Smith said that along with the standard high-profile Hollywood movies, he would also bring in a lot of art films, domestic and foreign films and documentaries.

And, as in his other operations, he will also host film festivals in the theatre.

"Right now we’re showing film festivals in Sun Valley and in Aspen and they’re made up of the more esoteric films," he said.

"Some of them are subtitled and some of them are in English, from all over the world and Canada and the US."

Whistler can expect the same type of things.

The theatre will not be ready in time for the 2002 Whistler Film Festival but Smith is hoping he can provide a future venue for that event.

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