For the first time, an B.C. film and television production back lot, with false-front buildings that have been used to simulate everything from New York City to small-town America, will be opening its doors to the public for Christmas.
The Martini Town Merry and Bright event, in Langley’s Aldergrove community, will be open Wednesdays to Sundays from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 (as well as Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) with tickets purchased in advance at www.martinievents.ca, and a portion of proceeds going to the Langley Food Bank.
There will be no gate sales.
Built in 2020 and operated by Langley’s Martini Film Studios, the standing outdoor set covers approximately six acres of a 17-acre site on 272nd Street south of 16th Avenue.
It includes a New York-style street, a movie theatre with a lit marquee, coffee shop, urban alley, courthouse, diner, town square and a quaint small town.
All will be dressed up with lights and Christmas decorations for the holidays by industry crafts people, and there will be live entertainment,including Santa, carolers, and choruses, along with booths for local vendors. But there will only be two food trucks, to encourage people to dine in Aldergrove, explained Michael Zizek, Martini event planner.
Zizek expects it will become an annual event.
“The industry always shuts down for the last two weeks of December,” Zizek said.
“So we’re going to build this into our calendar for the future, that we don’t book productions in for the first two weeks of December. The last two weeks are typically dark anyway in the industry so we can make this an ongoing public event.”
By using reservations and not permitting drop-ins, it allow organizers to limit capacity to assure a good experience for visitors, Zizek explained.
”There’s no crowd, no congestion points, when you want people to actually have the opportunity to take a family photo on those brownstone steps and send it to their friends.”
Dozens of productions have come to Martini Town since it opened.
“We talked to the production companies that do work here in B.C.,” Zizek told the Langley Advance Times.
“[We asked them] what are you looking for? What are the building facades that are missing from the Vancouver area? And that’s why we have the New York brownstone-themed street; we don’t have a lot of brick buildings here in Vancouver. And then we also added the courthouse and the small town this year.”
Zizek described the holiday event as an opportunity to show what “what film does for our economy, and what film does for jobs, and what’s being done here right in our own backyard.”
During the past two years, Hallmark films have shot dozens of productions at the Aldergrove site.
“We’ve done some commercials, Netflix series have been filmed there, and we’re really hoping, especially [with] the additional assets that we added this year, that more TV shows and series will take advantage of this great facility.”
Adults pay $22, seniors $18, children 6-12 $12 (six years and under free) and a family pack (two adults, two kids) goes for $60.
On Dec. 2, for an additional fee, visitors can take part in an immersive Hallmark fan expo, featuring a 90-minute panel discussion with seven actors in Hallmark movies, including Benjamin Ayres, Julia Benson, Peter Benson, Paul Campbell, Antonio Cupo, Ali Liebert, Kimberly Sustad, and Victor Webster.
Zizek said there are still a few vacancies for local vendors, and anyone interested should contact them through the website, www.martinievents.ca.