Wolfville mourns man who helped run Acadia cinema for half a century

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A cinematic legend from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley passed away over the weekend.

For nearly 50 years, Al Whittle was a mainstay of the Wolfville movie theatre that now bears his name.

Whittle died on Saturday at the age of 91.

"Al was a fabric of the community from the time he started working here and [he] rolled with all the punches of the changes of the industry, but constantly cultivated the people that came to watch film," said Bill Zimmerman, a co-founder of the Fundy Film Society who first met Whittle at the theatre.

Whittle joined the Acadia Theatre full time in 1953. For the next 47 years, he worked all aspects of the business, serving for decades as manager. He told some of his story in a short film posted to the theatre's website.

He stayed involved after the theatre was purchased by a non-profit co-operative. They renamed it the Al Whittle Theatre/Acadia Cinema Co-op in his honour.

"He didn't just sit in his office and make the money roll in. He was out there taking tickets, selling concessions ... He was constantly feeling his audience. And I think if there's something that's carried forward, that has to be it," Zimmerman said.

Whittle loved having a full house, he said, especially when the 1990s hit Titanic played to packed houses for a long run. He also brought in more obscure movies, too, and created teatime matinees on Sundays for film fans.

CBC
CBC

The theatre itself is now shut due to COVID-19, but it will resume hosting movies and live theatre when it reopens.

The Just Us! coop coffee shop in the lobby remains open as usual, and church services also continue under official exemptions for religious services.

"Our little theatre will be here for quite some time, hopefully screening movies and also live theatre and concerts and whatever we can do," said theatre manager Mary Harwell.

"And this building will remain part of this community for a long time. And the theatre will be here with his name on it."

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