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Civic Theatre begins public pitch for tripling its screen time

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
March 22nd, 2018

The city’s only movie theatre is embarking on a multi-million dollar campaign this year to see its lone screen turned into three.

The Civic Theatre board of directors has set the price tag at $2.85 million for three phases of development that would give the current single-screen theatre three screens, a new lobby and a new lease on life by 2020.

On Monday Civic board member Brian May and Theatre executive director Eleanor

Stacey spoke to city council on the Civic’s grand plan to create a prosperous future for the facility, one that hinged upon expansion.

Although the Civic Theatre intends to create a facility as unique as the community, said May, it cannot continue in its current form.

“We are not going to survive with a single theatre (screen). It didn’twork,” he said. “And we also know there aren’t going to be any saviours that are going to step forward to run a theatre.

“But it’s clear this community wanted something, something more than just a theatre.”

The Civic has the partners to make it more than just a theatre, May continued, and it has the plan to develop resiliency in its operation, providing the city with a financially stable tenant that does not require ongoing support.

According to the Civic capital campaign update, the theatre needs more space to prosper and achieve financial stability. Two screens means sustainability for the theatre, said Stacey, while three screens translates into “mission fulfillment.”

The second screen might add financial stability, but if the theatre wants to see its programs and facilities flourish it needs more space and capacity to expand programs, said Stacey.

Phase one of the campaign is for the creation of a theatre and a lobby, carrying an estimated price tag of $1.36 million, with a second theatre added in phase two for an $890,000 cost.

In the final phase, the third theatre would be added for around $600,000.

For its part, the board requested a letter of support for its campaign from city council, as well as the intent of financial commitment for
its fundraising campaign.

The letter of support would iterate that the city thought the screen expansion to be a great project, that they would support it, as well as some sort of firm financial commitment, said May.

“The letter of support allows us to talk to other groups and show the city is buying into this project,” he said.

Stacey said ground is expected to be broken by August 2019 on the project, seven months into the fundraising campaign. Construction in the first phase is expected to be around four months, during which time the theatre will be closed, re-opening the first screen 11 months into the campaign.

Follow the money

In reaching its financial fundraising goal, the Civic board will be targeting “founders” for 67 per cent of the nearly $3 million required, with major gifts at 23 per cent and will turn to the community for 10 per cent, around $300,000.

“Through this we can really make our community members feel like they are part of finishing a project instead of at the start,” Stacey said.

Founders would be federal, provincial, regional and municipal funding agents, really focusing on grant applications and targeted requests.

The Civic board was hoping to partner with the city and not compete on grant applications for upgrades and infrastructure.

“This is the time to build equity into that Civic Theatre,” said May, as well as to build efficiencies in the structure.

Wants a conversation on finding out what levels of support might be available to the theatre from other funding streams.

The key in the founders phase is to get to $240,000, which is the amount they need to be able to build out the physical plans for the
venue.

“Once we have that it builds credibility for us as we approach other funding prospects and it will also help us through all three phases of our campaign,” Stacey said.

The intent is to reach that goal by the end of 2018.

The major gifts fundraising aspect will include approaching corporate sponsors, around $700,000, to be completed by the end of 2019.

City council passed a motion to refer the Civic Theatre’s information and request to city staff to be brought forward at a future business meeting.

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