Sale of movie theatres prompts reflection and optimism in Whitehorse

·3 min read
Pavlina Sudrich holds up the marquee letters she bought off eBay in front of the Yukon Cinema Centre in Whitehorse. She planned to update Qwanlin Cinema Centre's marquee  herself, before realizing she purchased the wrong size. (Dave White/CBC - image credit)
Pavlina Sudrich holds up the marquee letters she bought off eBay in front of the Yukon Cinema Centre in Whitehorse. She planned to update Qwanlin Cinema Centre's marquee herself, before realizing she purchased the wrong size. (Dave White/CBC - image credit)

Pavlina Sudrich is so passionate about the movie theatres in Whitehorse that once she took it upon herself to update the marquee at the Qwanlin Cinema Centre.

She said it was a "little blow to the vitality of the downtown core" when Landmark Cinemas stopped posting the movie schedule, and she had lobbied hard for the company to reverse course.

"Finally, after two years of this driving me crazy, I went to eBay and purchased my own set of marquee letters," she told the host of CBC's Airplay, Dave White. It cost her $250.

Sudrich said she loaded an extension ladder into the back of her car and drove to the theatre one morning at 4 a.m.

"I set up the ladder, I climbed up to the marquee and went to update the cinema show times myself, and found out I bought the wrong size of marquee letters," she laughed. "So that is why you never saw that happen, Whitehorse. I failed."

It was after the marquee stopped being updated that Sudrich said she started corresponding with Landmark's head office in Calgary as the president of the Friends of Landmark Cinemas — which she described as a "made up association" she started with friends — and advocating for improvements.

"I don't think they're fully aware it's a fake, shell organization, but I think they've started to suspect."

Although the group isn't real, Sudrich's hope that the theatres in Whitehorse will continue to operate sure is. Landmark Cinemas confirmed to CBC News last week that both the Qwanlin Cinema Centre and the Yukon Cinema Centre had been sold, but wouldn't say who bought them or for how much.

Both have been closed since the start of the pandemic and have remained closed even as doors at movie houses elsewhere in Canada have reopened.

Steve Hossack/CBC
Steve Hossack/CBC

"I'm optimistic that because they sold both properties, it's not necessarily purely for a tear down and rebuild situation," mused Sudrich. "I think there's a real importance to the community, to having a theatre downtown."

She said the spaces have a lot of "beautiful history," and they also serve as a financially accessible, alcohol-free place. "The loss of that is, I don't know, it makes me sad for sure."

The theatres that Whitehorse deserves

While Sudrich remains hopeful for the future, news of the sale has others in Whitehorse reflecting on the past.

Gord Reed, for instance, used to work at the Yukon theatre in the early '80s as an usher.

Flashdance, Porky's and Fast Times at Ridgemont High were some of the big shows at the time, he said. "I don't know if I really understood what it meant to be working during those times."

Dave White/CBC
Dave White/CBC

Reed said people are nostalgic about the theatres, and he is too — but he also recognizes what they became.

"The seats, some of them were not there, or if they were functioning they weren't very comfortable, the floor was sticky and sometimes the place really did smell."

Sudrich said she once ripped a pair of pants on a broken seat.

"I think it's important to remember that the Qwanlin and Yukon cinemas are maybe not the theatre we wish we had, but they are the theatre we deserve," she said.

Her message to the future owner or owners is to hire her, if they keep either venue as a theatre.

"I'll start smoking, but from a cigarillo. And I'd like to have a parrot. And I'd like to charge admission just based on my evaluation of your present state. Maybe it's a five dollar day for you, maybe it's a $25 day for you."

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