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Daily Dose — Show Will Go on Despite Civic Theatre Closing for Renovations

Ari Lord
By Ari Lord
May 14th, 2024

The Civic Centre building, which is owned by the City of Nelson, is now closed for roof renovations and later interior renovations for an indeterminate length of time.

Nelson Civic Theatre Society (NCTS), which has been displaced due to the renovations, has move operations to show films using the Shoebox at Reo’s Video.

Last month, the NCTS reached out to community supporters to get a sense of the support out there to keep the theatre going long-term.

NCTS is putting a call out to the community for support, whether that be as donors, members, or volunteers, there is a role for everyone willing to help.

“There’s no question in my mind whatsoever that Nelson wants the cinema,” says Eleanor Stacey, Executive Director of NCTS.

Stacey said the last film screened, for now, at the Civic Theatre was “Back to the Future” on April 19th of this year.

“It was such a great film to close on because it resonated so much with the Boomers and the Generation Xers. And lots of us brought our kids. It’s from the heyday of when I was a kid and loved being in The Civic and seeing films there,” Stacey said.

NCTS manages The Civic Theatre and the Shoebox Theatre, Reo’s Video, the Kootenay Screen-Based Industry Initiative, and is a founding partner of the Kootenay Regional Film Commission and the Rural Arts Inclusion Lab (RAIL).

Currently, The Civic Theatre is in the hands of the city, who own the building and will be working over the coming months to fix the roof.

“Our team has been working hard to break down all of our gear in theatre over the last month. It’s a huge amount of work because we have everything from screens, projectors, speakers, that have to be removed. All of our tech on stage needed to come down,” says Stacey.

She says that her team realizes the roof project will take the time that it takes.

“It’s a single facility with two projects that need to happen in synchronicity. As the roof repairs progress, we may be able to get in and start the renovations that we have planned. But all of that is going to happen a little more organically than we might normally plan because it’s an old building and there are unknowns.”

After the roof repair, the Civic Theatre can do the renovations they’ve raised funds for which includes dividing the space into three separate theatres.

In late April, Stacey and her team communicated with the community about these changes.

“We invited a multitude of different audiences and friends to come and talk with us about what was coming up. We wanted to let everybody know that we still have a significant amount of money to raise, an estimated 2.5 million.”

They had a renovation project that was approved by the Investing Canada Infrastructure program and other funders totalling $4.2 million. The problem is that those numbers were set out in 2019, and now 5 years later, the costs for everything have gone up.

So, the Civic Theatre continues to look for entities, individuals, and companies that might be interested in financially supporting the theatre.

They are also looking for volunteers to help run screenings at The Shoebox, make popcorn and sell tickets, and be a presence at markets this summer to sell NCTS memberships. They are also looking for donor stewardship volunteers to call donors and thank them and call members to renew their memberships.

“We want people to keep buying memberships because it helps us to get the message out to funders or potential funders that there’s a huge value in the Civic Theatre, even while the main theatre is closed. We’re advocating on behalf of NCTS, towards the value of The Civic Theatre in our community,” says Stacey.

For $20, members get access to movies at Reo’s Video all year long, 16,000+ films, and can borrow all films outside of brand-new releases at no additional cost.

The Nelson Civic Theatre Society has 1300 paid numbers, which is huge for any non-profit. — The Nelson Daily photo

Maintaining memberships is going to be key to The Civic’s ongoing success, Stacey says.

“We still have strong membership numbers even though we’re closed. People believe in our cause and they’re willing to put $20 down. We have 1300 paid numbers, and that’s huge for any nonprofit. It’s amazing in a community our size, 10% of our population is a member.”

Stacey also encourages community members to host fundraising events.

“We introduced the idea of a porch party or a beach party. We’d love for people who have homes or properties where they can open their doors and host friends for us, to be able to get the word out about the fundraising need. This is a nice way to connect people to the cause.”

Additionally, Stacey asks community members to think about how they would like to be involved beyond NCTS’s requests.

“They don’t have to be huge commitments of time, money or service. They can be smaller. If people want to make commitments to help us, we’re all ears. The proverbial many hands make light work.”

Because NCTS’s administrative offices operate out of the Shoebox site already, at 225 Hall Street, shifting to operating out of Reo’s Video hasn’t been much of a challenge.

Stacey is grateful for the community support NCTS has received so far.

“I can’t even express my gratitude for the outpouring of support in the fall for the roof situation. We raised $56,000 in three months. There were over 200 donors. It was a wonderful testament to the value that people still see and feel about the Civic.”

Like other theatres, the Civic Theatre experienced lows in their customer numbers during the pandemic. They were also affected by Hollywood actor and writer’s strikes.

“The pandemic changed the flow of films coming out of Hollywood. There’s more going to streaming. That seems to be a trend. But all things considered, it’s really clear to us that when we have films that people want to see, they come out,” explains Stacey.

Whether it be a Hollywood blockbuster like Barbie, or an independent ski or environmental film, the Civic Theatre gets a full night.

“I’m not even the tiniest bit worried about whether or not Nelson wants a cinema. The only concern I have is about our ability to navigate next year and make good decisions that help us get to the place where we can reopen as a three-screen cinema and start to book all the films that people want to see.”

Stacey says that even when NCTS was founded, they had the intention of one day becoming a multi-theatre venue, so these renovations are building towards that initial vision.

“This community has always wanted a theatre, and the three-screen model’s always been viable. We’ve just never had the chance to show it. And when we have the chance to show it, I know that we’ll be able to show people that local independent cinema is here to stay,” says Stacey.

The Civic Theatre is closed for significant renovations, but The Shoebox at Reo’s Video will continue to offer film screenings to the community until the new and improved theatre is up and running. — Submitted photo

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