A recent trip to California inspired an Alberta man to build an outdoor movie theatre made almost entirely out of snow.
But it wasn’t Hollywood’s bright lights that prompted Graham Whatmough to create the theatre. It was his love of film—and northern winters.
“I was planning on taking a trip across the whole of the United States. I booked a bunch of time off for Christmas, but I got as far as San Diego and every day I was just thinking about the snow and the northern lights up here, so I booked a flight back,” Whatmough told CBC News.
He dug out his projector and shovel and got to work as soon as he returned to his home in Fort McMurray. It took him more than a week to carve out his dream theatre, but once complete, the fully functioning movie screen stood more than nine feet tall and 20 feet wide.
Built in the middle of Fort McMurray’s Thickwood Park, it wasn’t equipped with seating, so Whatmough built that too. A couple of days after he finished the screen, he sculpted restaurant-style dining booths and cosy shelters out of hard-packed snow.
But it wasn’t as easy as Whatmough makes it look.
“It was pretty difficult because the snow is really dry and powdery,” he said earlier this week on Edmonton AM. “I compressed it with snowshoes and left it for a bit, made it into blocks, and then it built up that way,”
Good thing he loves playing in the snow.
Whatmough used the theatre to screen two of his own short films, one of which was shot during a canoe trip from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan this past summer. The other was made during a week-long trip on the ice roads between Fort McMurray and Yellowknife.
“I thought it would be a really neat way for people to come out and see some of the adventure films I’ve produced and been a part of,” he told CBC.
Unfortunately, his theatre has been shut down for an undetermined amount of time due to a mid-winter thaw. After all that work, and only a couple of showings, most of it is now melted.
But this is a passion project for Whatmough, and he plans to reconstruct it as soon as the weather cooperates. It will also give him the opportunity to improve the design, which he’s already thinking about.
Whatmough originally hails from Ontario, but he has lived in northern Alberta for the past eight years, so he knows how to enjoy winter.
“I’ve just decided that you have to make the most of it,” he said.