The Civic Theatre needs financial help as it struggles with low attendance. Photo: Submitted

The Civic Theatre needs financial help as it struggles with low attendance. Photo: Submitted

LARGE POPCORN, EXTRA BUTTER: Reflections on reopening The Civic Theatre yet again

Eleanor Stacey writes about the theatre’s financial struggles during its latest reopening

by Eleanor Stacey

I always say I came late to the party.

I joined the staff of Nelson Civic Theatre Society in fall 2014 when the theatre was already showing films most nights of the week throughout the year. I learned loads from the staff and volunteers I met in that first year though about the heavy lifting they had all done to get the theatre reopened. I heard about the tireless petition gatherers, the many meetings to start the society, the first membership drive complete with tables at Save-On Foods, downtown markets and many other places, the enormous local community fundraising efforts, and the hundreds of volunteer hours to install seats, improve technology, and clean the bathrooms, all in an effort to get the theatre open again.

Today, almost a decade later, many of those volunteers are still with us on our board of directors, within our staff, and in our volunteer teams. It is formidable to know that The Civic Theatre remains a passion project for all of them, and it certainly has become one for all of us who have come onboard since.

Reopening the theatre after a seven-month government-mandated closure felt a bit like starting all over again, and has made me think often of these stories from our founding volunteers. This June we had to deep-clean away dust, replace a bunch of expired concession stock, renew relationships with service providers, and hire and train returning and new service staff. We needed to get the gears moving.

But even under the grey cloud of the continuing pandemic, we felt a sense of excitement and anticipation to be able to open our doors and see guests in our lobby again. We remembered that what we do at The Civic is actually really, really important: we are a home for our imaginations, fostering film, community gathering, and so much more, all in one of Nelson’s longest-standing places to see old friends and make new ones. For more than half a year, we were kept from doing these things that make The Civic magical and vibrant and the community connector that we are for so many people.

However, coming back has not been without its challenges. We know that there are people who are still very tentative and careful about going out, be it to gyms, restaurants, grocery stores, dinners with friends, or theatres. We know it will take time for the effect of the pandemic to wear off and for things to return to a sense of normal. As a result, we are still seeing lower than usual attendance for films, which is concerning for us, as ticket sales are our core income stream; a stream that has been all but dry since November 2020. We need to sell tickets and concession to weather the coming months as people begin to grow confidence in the safety of the world around us again. We need this income to pay our staff and keep our theatre running.

It’s all coming back slowly. We see this in the positive forecasts from national and international authorities on cultural economies, and in the kind and encouraging words from our friends and patrons. Slowly, we are seeing it at the theatre too. But in the meantime, we really do need your help.

Please consider making a donation to Nelson Civic Theatre Society before our fiscal year end on July 31st. Our goal is to raise $20,000 by that date.

Please also begin or renew your membership with NCTS — members get great perks, including better pricing on tickets and concession, and now also on DVD and Blu-Ray rentals at Reo’s Video too.

And please come back to the theatre! We are a safe, well-planned, socially distant, air-conditioned summer sanctuary, and our team is ready to welcome you to our next screening. Masks are warmly encouraged (and worn by all our staff) but not required.

To make a gift, renew your membership or buy tickets to a movie, please visit civictheatre.ca or visit us at The Civic Theatre or Reo’s Video for assistance. We look forward to seeing you in our lobby again soon, and sharing the magic of seeing a film on the big screen.

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of Nelson Civic Theatre Society, which operates The Civic Theatre, The Civic’s Drive In, and Reo’s Video.