The Whittle revitalized

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ACOA funding will help reduce costs, improve sustainability


As the first production of Valley Summer Theatre went down and another was going onstage, a funding dream came true for the Acadia Cinema.

The important venue in Wolfville’s cultural landscape is being revitalized thanks to an investment by the federal government. Last week Senator Donald Oliver announced more than $72,429 for upgrades to the structure. “The Acadia Cinema has played a leading role in this area’s cultural tourism industry for nearly a century,” Oliver said. “Through this investment, its impact as a true draw for visitors to this community will be expanded.”

Oliver also commended the cinema cooperative for its tireless efforts at revitalization.

Expand operational capability

The project will expand the operational capabilities of the theatre, reduce operating costs and improve its sustainability. Components include adding insulation to the building’s shell as well as purchasing a digital cinema projector and sound and lighting equipment for the Al Whittle Theatre. In addition, it will provide soft seating for the 35-seat, intimate performance venue upstairs known as the Little Whittle. “The Acadia Cinema has long showcased the richness of diversity and talent that exists here in Wolfville,” said Mayor Bob Stead. “These enhancements will ensure it can continue in that role, being a strong cultural contributor to our community.”

Stead spoke of all the partnerships that made the revival of the Acadia Cinema possible. Through cooperation and partnerships, he added, the rescued building holds a pivotal place in Wolfville.

He welcomed ACOA back to the town and also commended the vision of the cinema co-op's board and its management skills.

Valuable cultural resource: Jennex

Kings South MLA Ramona Jennex, who told those assembled she once had Al Whittle as her landlord, called the theatre a valuable cultural resource that will continue to be in place for film and performance, giving voice to future and current generations.

She said the provincial government recognizes the importance of the theatre to Wolfville by giving it grants and added it will remain committed to the nurture of creative excellence.

Peter Herbin, president of the Wolfville Business Development Corporation (WBDC), said the organization was pleased to support the theatre with the cost of the new digital projector. “When our theatre’s namesake and currently active board member, Al Whittle, started working here in 1953, carbon arc projection was state-of-the-art technology,” said volunteer manager Bill Zimmerman. “That was nearly 60 years ago. Today, with the addition of our new digital cinema projector and other amenities we, along with Al, are confident the Acadia Cinema Cooperative has a long and bright future entertaining and enlightening residents and visitors to Wolfville.”

Dates back to 1911

The building housing the cinema dates back to 1911 when, as a hotel, it became the Wolfville Opera House. It first opened its doors as the Acadia Cinema in 1947 before closing in the year 2000.

Two years later, a group of community leaders formed the Acadia Cinema Cooperative with the idea of purchasing and renovating the building for use as a cinema and performing arts centre. It reopened in 2004 as the Al Whittle Theatre.

Zimmerman said the improved theatre benefits cultural tourism, but talks are underway with the music industry about locating a new server that would allow for live streaming of music.

Zimmerman said he has learned in recent years just how much “people hold this building deeply in their hearts. Much of that is due to Al (Whittle)."

Two-thirds of the projects the funds were intended for are complete and he added the cinema is the only independent cinema east of Montreal that can boast a digital projector. "That is thanks to ACOA, the town, the WBDC and Just Us Coffee Roasters, as well as our very important community of users and a fantastic audience. "The board worked hard to make this work," he added. "Shareholders gave specific donations. We are all looking forward to the day we can eliminate the mortgage. We hope that day will come by 2011."

The ACOA investment was made through the agency’s Innovative Communities Fund. In addition, the Town of Wolfville contributed $20,000 and the WBDC gave $10,000.

Organizations: Acadia Cinema, Wolfville Business Development, Al Whittle Theatre Wolfville Opera House Innovative Communities Fund

Geographic location: Wolfville, Montreal

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