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Question of Civic Theatre's continued existence arises as City undertakes review

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 31st, 2011

If you have been waiting to go out to see a movie in a theatre in Nelson, keep waiting.

With the lease for the Civic Theatre space terminated three months ago, now there is a real danger of Nelson’s only public movie house being closed for quite some time.

City manager Kevin Cormack said they are undertaking a review of the aging, City-owned facility to see what it would need to bring it back to a lease-able state.

When the lease between the City and Cinemax — a new group of investors renovating the Civic Theatre — was terminated in February, the City felt a review of the building was imperative to ascertain what capital upgrades were required in the building.

The structure’s mechanical and electrical systems will be scrutinized this year in order to assemble a body of data on the state of the building, said Cormack.

“Once we have that information we will be in a better position to look for a potential tenant in that building,” he said. “We want to make sure we understand those costs first and then council can then decide if they want to invest in that building or as a whole.”

And council will likely have to make some sort of decision on whether to keep a theatre in that space, or use the space for something else.

There isn’t a municipal requirement for the City to provide a theatre or a theatre space, meaning the possibility of there not being a theatre there at all — if costs prove prohibitive — is very real, said Cormack.

“The majority of council wants to see a theatre at this stage, based on the information they have to date,” he said. “But, ultimately, I haven’t heard anybody on council who feels taxpayers should subsidize it. It would have to be a viable concern.”

The Nelson and District Recreation Commission is also doing a master plan on the Civic Centre, looking at the recreational aspects of the building — a document expected to be finished in the fall.

That review will determine what could be done to keep the various recreational facilities in the building going. Cormack said it was unlikely they would want to take over the theatre space as well, seeing as it was built specifically for a theatre.

Formal notice was sent to the partners in Nelson Cinemax — the proposed new name for the Civic Theatre — in February indicating multiple breaches on their lease, ending in their tenure being terminated.

The Cinemax group had breached the time limit set out in the original agreement by several weeks as to when they had to have the renovation completed and open the theatre, said Cormack.

The 764-seat theatre was expected to open at the end of October, 2010, with 440 new seats and major improvements to the entire inside of the venerable structure. Work is not complete on the inside of the theatre.

Nelson Cinemax was the result of “three combined ideas about how to bring about something special to the theatre in Nelson,” according to the group’s website (, that still says they are opening soon.

The intent was for the theatre to be playing first run movies, opening seven evenings each week and hosting matinees when scheduled.  

The theatre was to be made available for private movie viewings, seminars, workshops, conference activities, art showings and performances.

Cinemax also claimed they would work with local artists, musicians and performers to “make this a truly diverse and creative environment.”!/TheNelsonDaily


See also

Partners in Cinemax found in breach


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