Opinion

Civic responsibility for Nelson theatre

THe debate over the Nelson Civic Theatre continues. - Josh Wapp image
THe debate over the Nelson Civic Theatre continues.
— image credit: Josh Wapp image

Re: “Looking past romanticism” Letters, May 9

I agree with the sentiment that Ms. Austin’s letter “A night out at the cinema,” (May 2) was beautifully written and certainly romantic, but it was also a poignant snapshot of the debate over the Civic’s future. I believe, in fact, it was an essay assignment that Mikaiya’s teacher encouraged her to submit to the Star. I applaud them both.

While the Capitol Theatre has taken a neutral stance on the future of the Civic Theatre space (having seriously entertained several options) the Capitol supports whatever outcome is decided by the community.

In Pat Hodgson’s letter of May 9, “Looking past romanticism,” he suggests the Capitol Theatre fill the gap to screen movies in the absence of a Civic movie theatre. Alas, there were many points in that letter that were incorrect and I feel duty bound to the constituents of the Capitol to clear any misunderstanding within the community.

The Capitol Theatre was originally built as a movie house in 1927, celebrating 85 years as a Nelson landmark this September, and was repurposed as a live performing arts venue in 1988. The Capitol, in its current format, reopened with the formation of the Capitol Theatre Restoration Society acting on behalf of the community to provide a suitable live theatre venue. While the Capitol does have “seats and a screen already in place” it certainly does not “sit(s) empty on many evenings.”

Hodgson suggests “this building [the Capitol] could be utilized better to show films in addition to its current use...” Use of the Capitol, which does in fact screen a score of films each season, included 23,134 patron visits, over 100 ticketed events with well over 200 active days either in rehearsal, production, creation or educational summer activities for youth last fiscal year. This with a full time staff of two and a part time staff of three. The Capitol is fortunate to be heavily utilized and is appreciative of City and community support.

As pointed out in Hodgson’s letter the Capitol does receive “city funding in excess of $50,000 per year.” The figure is in fact $55,000 which the society has received annually for 25 years, although operating expenses have increased exponentially over that quarter century funding remains the same. This “taxpayer support” is provided in order to maintain and enhance city property. It is not uncommon for a registered charity, such as the Capitol, to receive municipal funds to offset costs related to the operation of a municipal building. City funds constitute only 15 per cent of the Capitol’s operating budget. In fact over 75 per cent of the Capitol’s revenue is generated from ticket sales, theatre rentals and concession. As a not-for-profit theatre, operating in BC in the current climate, this is no small feat and is directly related to community interest and support.

The Capitol has in fact fundraised within the community for the purchase of a professional movie projector. The purchase of a projector is an asset acquisition to better serve the clients of the theatre.

The Capitol can never be a first run movie theatre, it is not the mandate of the society. Realities of first run movie theatres are that the ticket sales don’t keep the lights on, massive tubs of soda and popcorn pay the bills and end up ground into the carpets. There was not much romance in the old Civic carpets. Movie distributors program the theatre and any artistic direction is lost. That model does not fit with the Capitol Theatre’s vision.

While the debate rolls on, romantic or not, the dialogue must remain realistic.

Neil Harrower

Nelson

 

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