Whistler may become home to film festivals on a regular basis if a proposal for an eight-theatre movie house in the former AlpenRock space goes ahead.
A rezoning proposal for the movie house, a restaurant, cabaret and storage space was introduced to Whistler council Monday.
The underground space in Whistler Village Centre has been empty since the buildings owner, Larco Investments Inc., foreclosed on the AlpenRock last September.
The restaurant and cabaret are proposed by Jack Evrensel, who owns Araxis Restaurant and used to own the Savage Beagle. Evrensels Top Table company owns three restaurants in Vancouver. The AlpenRock space currently holds seats licensed for a restaurant and a cabaret.
The cineplex theatre is proposed by Marshall and Karen Smith, an Idaho couple who specialize in operating multiple-screen movie theatres in mountain resorts. They have owned and/or operated theatres in Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Aspen and Park City.
Marshall Smith told council, "We have been in the business a long time, were learning how to do it right."
The eight theatres would range in size from 90 to 140 seats. They would show first-run movies as well as "art movies."
Smith said film festivals in the shoulder season have worked well in other mountain resorts. He said he has produced his own film festivals and has worked with arts councils and others to produce film festivals with specific themes.
"They help bring people to town in the shoulder season," Smith said.
He hopes to open in time for the numerous big-budget films released at Christmastime.
In order to meet that schedule rezoning would have to be approved and work start on renovations by August.
An open house on the rezoning application will be held in the next few weeks. After that a report will be brought to council and first and second readings will be considered.
In a letter to council Evrensel wrote: "Our vision is to create a fine dining restaurant as well as an exciting cabaret venue The cabaret will be a venue like no other yet seen in Whistler. All the latest entertainment technology will be incorporated, appealing to the more mature Whistlerite as well as the younger set."
Other space would be leased as storage or office space to village businesses.