Building on the success of last week's Whistler Film Festival (WFF), the municipality announced that it will release $350,000 in funding that it has earmarked for the renovation of the Rainbow Theatre, provided certain conditions are met by the end of this month.
The WFF Society would like to see the theatre become the festival's signature screening house by increasing seating, installing a digital projector and completing other renovations at a cost of $1.34 million.
"The project is ready to go; the plans are in place, pre-construction is done, permits are in place, so it's all ready to go, it's just about getting the final funding piece together so that we can make it happen," said WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw last week. "It's a critical success factor for us to have a theatre that is a proper size, a respectable house size that is a state-of-the-art digital theatre that has the proper projection and sound equipment so that we can actually bring in the level of film and the level of guest that we're trying to attract."
Efforts to upgrade the Rainbow Theatre were launched by the fest in 2009 in the hopes of securing $2.67 million in funding for the project. That amount has since been lowered following a meeting with festival representatives and the municipality last week, which resulted in the scaling back of renovation plans.
The municipality will release the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds if the festival can secure 100 per cent of the money required to complete the $1.34 million renovation by Dec. 31.
They will also be required to provide a sound business and construction plan for the project. Hardy Mishaw said she has received no communication from the municipality regarding the end-of-year deadline and as a result was unwilling to comment on the issue.
The WFF Society could secure the remaining renovation funds by Dec. 31 if a potential senior government grant for the fest, alluded to by Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden at Tuesday's (Dec. 4) council meeting, is finalized.
"If they don't get the other funding we're hoping to get, we'll just have to move to Plan B, and I really don't know what Plan B is at this point," the mayor said.
Hardy Mishaw did not want to provide any further details regarding the potential grant, as it has yet to be confirmed.
Festival organizers were hopeful that the renovations would be completed in time for this year's event, which concluded Sunday (Dec. 2), but were unable to secure the necessary funds. The same day that the festival was making its case to council to release the funds, Tourism Whistler, which currently holds the lease on the theatre, passed a motion that required full funding and a sound business plan to be in place before construction could begin. The conditions were also recommended by the municipality's Economic Partnership Initiaitve committee soon after.
Hardy Mishaw said a newly renovated theatre would provide the community with a year-round cultural centre that could offer diverse programming and would result in a projected annual revenue stream of $255,000 within three years of the renovations being completed.
The Whistler Film Festival enjoyed unprecedented success in its twelfth year, with nearly 10,000 people attending the five-day showcase, a 20 per cent hike from last year. Industry attendance was also up, a 10 per cent increase from 2011, while box office revenues jumped an astonishing 37 per cent.