Josh Wapp has been involved with the resurrection of the Civic Theatre from the very beginning.

COLUMN: The passion, the vision, and the usher

In the beginning, more than 60 people came out to a meeting about the future of the Civic.

This week’s column is penned by the Nelson Civic Theatre’s iconic usher Josh Wapp. Josh won’t say so, but we know that his dedicated, friendly presence has been key to our success in building a membership list of over 2,400.

When I first wrote a letter to the editor in early 2012 about our theatre, I had no idea if others felt as I did. Was I just a fuddy duddy, a sentimentalist who loved the big screen and our old, art deco cinema?

More than 60 people came out to a meeting about the future of the Civic. I remember people sitting in a huge circle of chairs, and seeing the concern, the doubt, the dread of losing what we have. People talked about the challenge of raising enough money and then started to sink lower in their chairs.

I told everyone that we’d raised $1.5 million in our tiny town for a CT scanner. I specifically remember saying, “We can do this!” with all the enthusiasm I could muster. I only half believed it to be true. I didn’t have a clue.

Was cinema dead, as some were saying? Our next step was collecting signatures on a survey. Rain or shine, a few dedicated souls stood out there, risking looking like fools.

My grandfather once said, “Everyone loves movies.” Over 4,300 people in Nelson and area signed our survey, which simply stated: We want cinema back in our town!

More and more folks jumped on board and a non-profit society was formed. I was amazed that people were willing to do so much; the energy and intention were remarkable.

It was interesting to see a bunch of artistic folks like me band together with people with noses hardened from their years in business. It’s a good balance. Inspiration needs a container; you need to dream, but you need mechanizations to achieve it.

There has been a lot of magic in what happened. Like when The Beatles formed, there were just the right folks there at just the right time to make something great.

Someone who inspired me to think that resurrecting the Civic Theatre was possible is Michael Phillips, who wrote one of my favourite books, The Seven Laws of Money. It is not a book about how to get rich but rather an examination of how money works for or against people.

Phillips describes the inception of the San Francisco Book Fair and the room full of people discussing how to make it happen. As soon as the topic of costs came up, people became discouraged and, as in our meeting, sank lower in their chairs. Phillips told everyone not to worry about the money. Since they knew he was a financial advisor, they trusted him and got on with it.

As it turned out, their success had nothing to do with Phillips. “Money will come when you are doing the right thing. Focus on the passion rather than the money,” he writes.

By focusing on the passion, we raised more money for the Civic Theatre project than we thought we would and had 1,400 members before our project was even given the final approval from City Hall!

Another influence is Michael Guthrie, who ran the Village Green Café in Kaslo in the early ’70s. He wanted to buy the Langham building and restore it as a cultural arts centre. People met in his café, formed a society, and set off to create something great for the community. The Langham is a Kaslo success story.

Sometimes you just have to start working towards a dream. We’ve come a long way since that first meeting.

Our theatre has been successfully showing movies to thousands of people for over a year now and there are big plans ahead. I hope people will continue to support the realization of the rest of the renovations and continue to dream big.

­— Look for Josh or his two-dimensional cut-out self as part of the Civic’s 2014 membership drive. Join or renew your membership before films, at the booth around town, or online at, where you can also find out about the benefits of membership as well as some great prizes.

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