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City Council Gives Civic Theatre Group More Time

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
June 15th, 2012

Nelson City Council has given the Nelson Civic Theatre Society four months to do a feasibility study to bolster the proposal the group presented to Council on May 31.

“There was a lot of excellent thought and detail put into it. We were impressed, and we realized they needed more time,” said Councillor Paula Kiss on June 11 after Council considered the proposal. 

“So before they invest a lot into pursuing a renovation, they wanted a chance to do more background research and market feasibility,” Kiss said.

Other proposals will wait

This means that any other Civic Theatre proposals received by council will be on hold for the time being. Council’s final decision on the Civic Theatre Society’s plans will be contingent on the feasibility study.

The Society’s 33-page proposal contains an operational plan, an outline of needed improvements, a market analysis, the results of the group’s public surveys, a detailed business plan with financial projections, an analysis of the film industry’s distribution structure and practices, an outline of possible different models of use of the space, and artist renditions of future theatre and lobby.

Lots of local expertise involved

The document also contains a summary of the qualifications of 16 Nelson residents who are principles and associates of the group. The list includes professionals in the areas of film-making, finance, interior design, publishing, engineering, theatre operation, and business management.

The proposal points out that the group has not yet achieved formal status as a registered non-profit society, but that that process is in its final stages.

More background on the group’s lead-up to the finished proposal can be found in a previous story at The Nelson Daily.

Here are some excerpts from the proposal:

General programming plan

Nelson has a diverse and eclectic population that should be reflected to the greatest extent possible in our programming. Highly anticipated movies will be shown during their first run to draw crowds. These movies have the potential to be very profitable, and we run the risk of losing viewers willing to travel to see these movies rather than waiting to see them locally.

For most movies, many people have indicated they are willing to wait to see them locally. Showing late first-run films results in lower distribution costs and fewer restrictions from distributors. It will also give us an opportunity to see which movies have been successful in other markets before making programming decisions.

Beyond providing a venue for the latest Hollywood film, we will dedicate certain times towards showing art house, international, classic, and signature films, as well as family programming during weekend matinees. Opportunities, such as a local film festival in cooperation with the Capitol Theatre or other affiliations between these two venues, will be explored. Our long-term plan involves participating and partnering to support young filmmakers through education and screening opportunities. Ongoing community consultation may identify further opportunities for partnerships with existing groups and special screenings for specific interests.


Shared Vision

In March of this year a group of citizens came together with a shared vision: to restore the Civic Theatre to be able to show films, live entertainment, or related activities for the entertainment, education, and inspiration of Nelson and area citizens. The group, comprised of people from all sectors of Nelson, is united in its desire to see the Civic Theatre operate as a viable enterprise operated under the auspices of a nonprofit society to be both a successful business and a reflection of the community it serves. At the time of this proposal, society status is pending.


Operational keys to success

  • A strong, dedicated board of directors 
  • Film selection that reflects Nelson’s eclectic interests, including
  • popular films, independent films, family-oriented films, and satellite
  • feed screen entertainments such as sporting events and opera 
  • Availability for rental for stage productions and community events 
  • Partnerships with community organizations 
  • Excellent concession with offerings from local food producers
  • (beer/wine service possible since April 2012 changes to liquor law) 
  • Excellent marketing 
  • Strong membership with good member benefits 
  • Careful financial management and sustainable growth


Independent Cinema

We believe the best option for Nelson will be to have a fully independent cinema rather than associate our cinema with one of the established chains. As an independent cinema, we have choice in the movies we present, giving the cinema the option to offer first-run, late first-run, alternative, international, and classic films. We retain control, we are better able to serve the interests of our diverse community, and all profits can be reinvested locally.


“We like where they are going with it,” said Councillor Kiss.  “We recognize that it is a theatre right now, the community wants a theatre, and so if it can be used as a theatre and survive, then we want to give that organization first crack at it.”

It’s what they were hoping for

“It was an incredibly democratic process to distil this vision of this disparate group of people down to something we all felt really good about,” says Anne DeGrace, who wrote the proposal. 

“We all worked really hard on the proposal so we are really pleased that council saw that work, given that incredibly short time line, and saw that there was enough there to give us the nod to move forward into the feasibility study. It is what we were hoping for. You know, we recognize that we still have a ways to go in terms of our background research and to have the opportunity to do that is great.” 


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