Fort McMurray man builds outdoor theatre out of snow

Graham Whatmough has literally put his love for film on ice by constructing an outdoor movie theatre, made completely out of snow.

Graham Whatmough spent more than a week carving out his masterpiece

Graham Whatmough standing in front of his hand-made movie screen, before one of the public screenings he held in Fort McMurray's Thickwood Park. (Supplied /wherethehighwayends.com)

Graham Whatmough has literally put his love for film on ice by constructing an outdoor movie theatre, made completely out of snow.

There is no silver screen, no padded chairs or flashy footlights, but the outdoor amphitheatre is, without a doubt, one-of-a-kind.

It took more than a week for Whatmough to carve his masterpiece.

Once completed, the movie screen in Fort McMurray's Thickwood Park stood more than 20 feet wide and nine feet tall. But Whatmough didn't stop there. Within a few days, throne-like chairs, restaurant-style dining booths and cosy shelters — all made of hard-packed snow — were sculpted into shape.

"It was pretty difficult because the snow is really dry and powdery and then I compressed it with snowshoes and left it for a bit, made it into blocks and then it built it up that way," Whatmough said during a Tuesday morning interview on Edmonton AM.

"But I love playing in the snow."  

 

The inspiration for the snow theatre came to Whatmough after a trip to California left him pining for northern Alberta's icy climate.

"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 off 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," said Whatmough, who is originally from Ontario, but has lived in the northern Alberta city for eight years.

"I've just decided that you have to make the most of it."

As soon as he returned to Fort McMurray, Whatmough dusted off his projector, dug out his shovel and got to work in the park near his home.

"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," said Whatmough, who used the icy sculpture to screen a pair of his own short films.

One film was shot during a canoe trip from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan this past summer, the other was filmed  during a week-long trip on the ice roads from Fort McMurray to Yellowknife.

(Supplied / wherethehighwayends.com)
 

But Whatmough's winter cinema was short-lived. After a handful of public screenings, a mid-winter warm patch settled in, and his carefully-carved creation began to melt away.

"The timing was actually pretty terrible with the warm weather. I spent more than eight days building it and got a couple good showings out of it, but most of its melted now," said Whatmough. "That freezing rain really ate it up."

As soon as the weather cooperates, Whatmough hopes to reconstruct the theatre, and already has plans to improve his design.

If all goes as planned, he hopes move his cinema out of the park and onto Fort McMurray's frozen Gregoire Lake next winter.

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