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Rainbow Theatre reno to finish this spring

Conferences lined up to use new space



Call it fortuitous timing: Canada's one and only film industry convention is coming to Whistler this summer after a significant upgrade to its biggest theatre and a major investment in digital technology in the community.

Tourism Whistler is in the midst of a $500,000 reno to the Rainbow Theatre, part of the Whistler Conference Centre, and the Whistler Film Festival Society has bought a new $210,000 digital cinema system to screen movies.

The timing for the Show Canada conference couldn't be better.

"For us it's an absolute perfect storm to have the Movie Theatre Association of Canada here with all these studios and all these players in the business and for us to be able to profile the Whistler Film Festival, and the theatre, and our new system," said Shauna Hardy Mishaw, executive director of the Whistler Film Festival Society, which is helping to produce Show Canada.

"It gives them confidence to be able to give us films during the film festival."

More than 400 delegates with Show Canada will be in Whistler from June 3-5.

"And you will know who we are!" joked Nuria Bronfman, executive director with the Movie Theatre Association of Canada.

"It's people who are in the entertainment industry so they don't tend to be very quiet!

"We haven't been to Whistler for about 14 years or so, we felt it was high time to come back and we're really excited about it."

The $500,000 upgrades to the theatre come from municipal Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) money designed to drive tourism business. The renovation to the theatre is intended to drive conference business to the resort — business that accounts for 22 per cent of room nights in the summer and 11 per cent in the winter. Between 45,000 to 55,000 room nights every year are from guests using the Whistler Conference Centre, which is run by Tourism Whistler.

"We're in good shape with the renovation," said TW's president and CEO Barrett Fisher.

The drywalling has been completed, the stage surface is being replaced and the next steps are installing the acoustic panels, ceiling tiles, lighting, new carpeting and then new seating.

"Certainly the quality and the calibre of all the finishings are really beautiful; we're on time, we're on budget and we're looking at a mid-April completion date."

Tourism Whistler is bringing in a large conference in early May and it will be making use of the new Rainbow space as well.

TW projected the Rainbow Theatre, would be used 80 more days, in addition to the 40 days currently. Revenues are expected to grow by $80,000 annually.

The Whistler Film Festival will use the theatre space for 10 days in December; Hardy-Mishaw hopes to use the space more as the festival works to develop its offerings over the course of the year.

"The initial feedback has been positive, but as far as actually seeing the kick in of bookings, that will be over the next year," said Fisher, adding the booking windows for conferences is 12 to 18 months out.

She added: "What (the renovation) is doing is just giving us diversity of space and usage."


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