COLUMN: Cool times for hot summer nights

Oh, summer. A bunch of friends, a warm evening, the biggest bag of popcorn you can share, and the latest blockbuster.

Oh, summer. A bunch of friends, a warm evening, the biggest bag of popcorn you can share, and the latest blockbuster.

Brings back memories, right?

My first summer in Nelson was like that. I was 21 and had already made some fast friends working at the Jam Factory restaurant. After the movie we’d all go to Wait’s News to slurp milkshakes and discuss the merits of the film. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

I get warm thinking about last summer’s film nights too, but for a different reason. During its hiatus, I think many of us forgot that the Civic Theatre never did have air conditioning, and I suppose my tolerance for physical discomfort may be lower 33 years later.

The pre-movie slide describing the experience as “free hot yoga” was cute, but….

Luckily, air conditioning is on the list of improvements movie-lovers can expect soon, thanks to a $50,000 grant from BC Creative Spaces and a whole lot of community donations.

How cool is that?

It’s one of the many cool things that have helped — and continue to help — make the Nelson Civic Theatre a hot commodity, so to speak.

The Columbia Basin Trust pledged $132,000 for renovations, including digitization. The Trust and Regional District of Central Kootenay also contributed to lobby renovations, and the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust put forward $50,000 for new concession equipment.

Vancouver Foundation kicked in $10,000 for electrical upgrades, which will be part of concession upgrade.

Yes, the concession is due for renovations this fall. You’ll have noticed fountain drinks are now available; a new popcorn machine will mean less of a wait; a slushy machine will make things even cooler.

Other great partners include the Osprey Community Foundation, who gave us $1,300 for computers, and ArtsVest, who put in $10,000 for equipment needed for live performance, matching local business donations.

That local investment is key, whether individual or business. All funders want to see that the community wants this — and is willing to buck up. Similarly, a membership of 2,400 is a strong statement of community engagement, especially in a community of 10,000 people.

And so the current membership drive aims to keep the membership level as high as possible, recognizing that some who bought memberships were former Nelson folk who loved the Civic: they joined to secure its return for their home town.

Tom Shorthouse is one of those. He lives in Port Moody, where there is no longer a theatre. Here, Tom hilariously describes a summer night at the theatre with his sister Sylvia (now Crooks) back in their teenaged years.

“I remember both of us turning up one night at Sunset Boulevard, which was already well into the first reel. We groped our way down a pitch-black aisle with Sylvia in the lead when, dramatically, she suddenly disappeared from view, just as Joe’s body was being photographed and fished out of Norma’s swimming pool. Already disoriented by the gloom I froze, imagining that perhaps my cinema-loving sibling had swooned at the images on the screen and was now lying in front of me, flat on her face.

“But not so. Being good Catholic kids, we had been conditioned at an early age to genuflect before entering any pew and on this occasion — distracted by what was going on — Sylvia had swung into reverential reflex mode. The absurdity of what had just happened convulsed us with laughter as we hurriedly lurched over other patrons to grateful anonymity in the dark. Even we, fans to the core, realized that this was carrying our devotion to the movies to incongruous lengths.”

Thanks to the devotion of a whole community, we’ll have summer movie nights — and all year  round — for a long time to come. To donate, become a member, or renew your membership go to

See the list of donors and supporters at  and find out how to join the club.