Landmark Theatres plans to spend $150,000 renovating its two dilapidated cinemas in Whitehorse.
Old carpets, which are stained and worn-through in patches, will be replaced. Sticky floors will be treated with an acid bath.
Rows of seats that rock in their moorings will be firmly fastened.
Ragged wall-hangings will come down.
Fresh paint will be applied to the walls.
And both the Yukon and Qwanlin cinemas will receive a thorough cleaning.
The changes, expected to be completed by Christmas, come in response to a flurry of complaints the Calgary-based company heard from Whitehorse residents in the past week, following the publication of a Yukon News article that described the sad state of the Yukon Theatre.
At the time, a broken glass door of the theatre had been left unfixed for more than two weeks, with a taped-over garbage bag serving as the only barrier to entry.
“We’re obviously embarrassed,” said Nathan Cooney, Landmark’s director of operations. “We don’t want that kind of image to be portrayed.”
In the past week, moviegoers have expressed their frustration by creating a Facebook group named “Cinemas in Whitehorse SUCK! Shame on you Landmark!” As of yesterday morning, the group had 60 members.
Cooney received “about 30” calls from upset moviegoers in the past week.
In response, Landmark, which operates 100 screens at 31 locations across Western Canada, beefed-up its previously scheduled maintenance work. And it flew Cooney to Whitehorse to inspect the cinemas himself.
“We didn’t want to go halfway with it,” said Cooney. “We want to regain customers’ trust.”
The review resulted in the abrupt departure of the Yukon Theatre’s boss. The cinema is now being managed by Mark Sadowski, who took over the Qwanlin theatre in June. He has several years experience in managing a cinema in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Previous managers have blamed the company’s bosses in Calgary for neglecting their Whitehorse operations. Cooney, in turn, says many of the problems reported by moviegoers could have easily been fixed with “simple staff training” by management.
“That hasn’t happened here lately,” he said.
Hiring Whitehorse residents with no experience in theatres as managers was a mistake, said Cooney.
In the past two years, the Yukon Theatre has burned through three such managers, he said.
The result is well-known to moviegoers, who have described their experiences online.
Movies may be shown up to half an hour later than scheduled. Films could be out of focus.
The projector may break down. Or the audio track may be out of synch with the picture.
The telephone recording of movie schedules has given the wrong showtimes.
Last winter, as temperatures dipped below zero, the cinema lost heat and customers sat shivering in their seats. The boiler was replaced in the spring.
And last month, with the cash register apparently broken, the cinema posted a sign that asked customers to bring exact change.
One moviegoer quipped in an online posting that the rundown cinema “must be what an East Vancouver porno theatre looks like.”
Another, a former worker at the Yukon Theatre, reported with horror what she saw when she went to see a movie about a month ago.
“The floors and carpets have not been cleaned in a long time and were so saturated in fluid the pattern in the carpet was gone in most spots,” she wrote.
“A toilet from the ladies’ washroom was overflowing and running down the walls into the cinema … it had done so much damage it was obvious it had been happening for sometime.”
To ensure that theatre workers are properly trained, Jeff Maughan, Landmark’s operations supervisor, will remain in town for several weeks.
Landmark has suspended plans to build a multiplex in Whitehorse, but Cooney insists that the project is not dead and that Whitehorse “is at the top of our list of where we’d like to expand.”
For several years, the company has talked about building a six-screen multiplex near Wal-Mart. But this plans were nixed when construction companies quoted “insane” prices, said Cooney.
In the past year Landmark quietly pulled down signs advertising the new theatre.
“We were tired of teasing the public,” said Cooney.
But the company still holds a long-term lease on the lot. And, now that construction costs have cooled, the company is once again eyeing the project, although it is now considering building a smaller, four-screen theatre.
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