One of the neon signs on the exterior of the Yukon Theatre in Whitehorse, as pictured on Aug. 8. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

One of the neon signs on the exterior of the Yukon Theatre in Whitehorse, as pictured on Aug. 8. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

Yukon Theatre restores neon signs ahead of 70th anniversary

The Yukon’s sole operating cinema fixes broken neon signs and undertakes other significant upgrades

The signs on the exterior of the iconic Yukon Theatre building will soon return to their former glory, with the letters all repainted and illuminated in brilliant neon red. At present, only the second T and the R in “Theatre” glow after dark, while all the letters in “Yukon” light up, albeit in various hues.

The neon signs are expected to be fully lit up again by sometime in late August or early September, according to Patrick Jacobson, the general manager of the Yukon Film Society, the group that operates the cinema.

When asked how long it has been since the letters on the signs last shone all at once, Jacobson said, “I know it’s been partially damaged for at least eight years and I suspect probably closer to a decade, if not longer.”

The restoration of the signs is being assisted by Concept Neon in Vancouver.

“[Concept Neon] came up, and they traced out the letters that needed new glass, and so they’re rebuilding the glass for those in Vancouver […] And then they’ll be coming up to install the new glass,” Jacobson said. He adds that most of the neon letters are still in working condition but cannot be turned on due to worn-out transformers.

Since opening in 1954, the theatre has undergone several renovations. In the 1980s, the cinema went from a single screen to two screens, and sometime later, the building’s stucco exterior was covered with wooden siding. The concession has also moved from its original location.

The Yukon Film Society has taken several steps to improve the facility since taking over operations in November 2021, including fixing the formerly sticky floor, undertaking energy upgrades and fire-proofing the structure.

“The building had been neglected for years leading up to when we took it on. And so, there’s a lot of work to be done to bring it back up to what we would like to see it at,” Jacobson said, adding that much of the building is original and has not been updated since it first opened.

In addition to restoring the neon signs, several other upgrades to the cinema are being implemented or discussed by the Yukon Film Society, including improved accessibility.

“We’ve got a wheelchair-accessible door that’s going to be at the side of the building, with an automatic entry, so it’s easier for everybody to get into the theatre,” Jacobson said.

Yukon Theatre management is also aware of patrons’ desire for new seating. And while no hard timeline for seating upgrades has been set, Jacobson said he hopes new chairs can be installed by next year. The entire exterior facade of the theatre is also due for a fresh coat of paint, which is in the works.

News of the upgrades to the Yukon Theatre come as the cinema approaches a momentous occasion: On Dec. 3, 2024, the Yukon’s only operating cinema will turn 70. Jacobson told the News that the Yukon Film Society will be marking the milestone throughout the entirety of 2024.

“I don’t think that there is actually another building in the entire Yukon — even in Dawson City — that has continuously operated as an arts venue for 70 years. So, it’s definitely the only movie theatre that is a regular first-run movie theatre within 1,000 kilometres of here — probably more. So, I think it is a very important building.”

Next year is also the 40th anniversary of the Yukon Film Society, which was founded in 1984.

Contact Matthew Bossons at