COLUMN: Where the first date never ends

Members get to have a say at the AGM and to be a part of a true celebration of community.

When Don Johnston first met Betty, he was smitten.

“It was my first real crush,” he says. “I was 13 years old.”

It took some time, but he knew that Betty loved Elvis Presley, so when he heard that the 1962 movie Kid Galahad was coming to the Nelson Civic Theatre, he mustered his courage to ask her out.

“It was a no-risk excursion into the reality of a teenage boy asking a girl out for the first time. I knew she wouldn’t say no.”

Indeed, she said yes, and the two sat close to the front—it was a first date, after all.

“She loved it. I remember she checked out who else was with us at the movie; it was one of the more reliable ways to tell who was serious — by where people were sitting, and with whom,” he says. The serious daters, of course, sat closer to the back.

Don is now retired, with a past professional life that includes CEO of Columbia Basin Trust, Canada World Youth, and Canadian Executive Service Organization. He brought all that expertise along when he became Vice President after the AGM last fall, and we’re thrilled to have him.

He’s married to Jeanette, and the two have a few date-night-at-the-Civic tales of their own. Both have been solid Civic volunteers since joining.

Jeanette, originally from Victoria, remembers the first film she attended with Don at the “old” Civic, when she handed over two twenties for the film. Jeanette had come from the big city, where movies cost about $12.50. “The girl handed me back one of the twenties—and I still got change!” she laughs.

Today at the new, reactivated, fully digital and soon-to-be-air-conditioned Civic, (huge thanks for everyone’s support), a couple of Civic Theatre members on a first date will still get change back from a twenty. One of the perks of membership is a break at the box office.

Other perks include Member Movie Mondays, free movies shown to members only several times a year: usually cult hits, crowd-pleasers, and classics, such as Kid Galahad—in which case Don might want to take a different date this time around.

Members get to have a say at the AGM and to be a part of a true celebration of community. And it’s more than just movies. The long-term plan calls for sustainability through flexibility: three theatres for films, community events, performance, and more. So many ways to get together and enjoy one another.

I’ll never forget the first membership drive, when the Nelson Civic Theatre Society had four months to prove to City Council that support was there—and 1,000 of you took a leap of faith and bought memberships. Today there are 2,400 members, and your membership is essential: now, it’s funders who must be convinced that our theatre is a going concern.

There are perks to renewing or joining now. Memberships bought or renewed before May 31 are eligible to win a “Save My Seat!” prize package: two free movie tickets, popcorn, and reserved balcony seating for five movies of your choice. Just think! A first, second, third, fourth, and fifth date (and not necessarily with the same person).

You can just squeak in on that deadline by coming to our drop-in Open House Saturday, May 31, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can see the changes to date and plans for the future. There will be short films running all afternoon, and free popcorn (now that’s a cheap date!)

If you miss that date, there’s still time to win some prizes. And if your membership doesn’t expire for a while yet, you can renew now for that chance to win; your membership will be forward-dated.

Simply put, your first date is never your last date with the Civic. It’s a love affair that goes on and on, and a part of us will always be that teenager— our friends all around us, our eyes on the Big Screen, and our hearts full.

Join or renew your membership before films, at the booths around town, or online at, where you can also find out about more prizes, and what’s coming up at your theatre.

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