COLUMN: Friends, Romans, starlets, lend me your ears

It’s been a big week at the Civic Theatre — we’re in the throes of getting ready for our annual Oscar Gala Saturday night.

The Civic Theatre’s Jason Asbell (left) is a huge Coen brothers fan

It’s been a big week at the Civic Theatre we’re in the throes of getting ready for our annual Oscar Gala Saturday night this time taking advantage of a particularly fun dress up theme of “Friends, Romans, Starlets” connected with the Coen brothers’ 2016 Golden Age of Hollywood comedy, Hail, Caesar!

We’re planning quite a bash, complete with sumptious catering from West Coast Grill, electro-swing from the amazing Lady V., death-defying circus acts by Discover Circus, and the richly entertaining burlesque femme fatales The Show Cats, all preceding a screening of the Coens’ film. Hail, Civic!, is our third Oscar Gala, following Birds of a Feather last year (giving a nod to Oscar winner Birdman), and the rollicking Nelson Hustle in 2014, playing off of the 2013 ‘70s era comedy crime film, American Hustle.

Three years of Oscar parties already. And in a little more than that timeframe, we’ve opened, renovated, and screened hundreds of films, made substantial improvements to our space, and welcomed thousands of people through our doors. Our story is no longer that of a fledgling organization, but rather that of an independent cinema with heart, and which is still standing, still open despite the odds against being a single-screen venue. Now we are turning our focus to the next phase of our development: our aging building needs repair and restoration, and our long-term viability rests on continuing to improve the building, and the addition of more screens.

People do ask why more than one screen is needed, usually coupling that question with a warm note about how much they appreciate the theatre just as it is, and nostagia for our historic space. We love our space too. But the truth is that we wrestle daily with distributors to bring as much as we do, and on occasion have to bring things later, or in the recent case of Star Wars, have to hold them longer than movie-goers may appreciate. More screens will let us show more movies on their release dates, more films for families, and more films from diverse sources, like documentaries, independent Canadian films, and art house selections.

We also want to bring you more than movies. We will soon install fibre optic in our facility and we are investigating the many ways that we can link the physical and digital worlds. We have plans to host more webinars on our big screen, facilitate conversations, and help local groups build relationships with other like-minded communities using our connection. This is an invitation to our community to see us as an incubator, a facilitator, and a multi-faceted hub for community-building in an era increasingly driven and enhanced by technology.

We are now quietly shaping a fundraising campaign to build out two new theatres within our existing footprint, and make necessary improvements to our historic auditorium. We are having conversations to tell our story, and we are looking for partners of all shapes and sizes to help us reach our goals. More will follow about this campaign as it unfolds, and we look forward to sharing more details with the community as they are available.

For now, please keep coming to movies, and bring your friends. And polish off your centurion armour, dust off your party dress, and join us for Hail, Civic! on Saturday. Like Hollywood films of the ‘40s and ‘50s, it’s a production of epic proportions, and not to be missed!

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of Nelson Civic Theatre Society.

 

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