The Tobey Maguire version of Spider-Man opened to a packed house at the Nelson Civic Theatre.

Superheroes save the day for young Nelson movie lovers

Nelson Civic Theatre Society board member Darryl Santano remembers when he got ready for the first night of Spider-Man.

Nelson Civic Theatre Society board member Darryl Santano remembers when, as Civic Theatre projectionist, he got ready for the first night of Spider-Man.

“The kid from Pleasantville was playing,” he says. “We were in for a big treat, watching the web slinger shoot web and swing from building to building, beating up bad guys to save the day.”

With the theatre packed to the rafters, Santano held his breath.

“I was hoping that the film I had just threaded would run correctly,” he says, imagining film spooling on the floor.

Things like that had happened, requiring superhero action. But that night the only superhero was the one on the screen.

Last month Santano and fellow board member Jason Asbell — our volunteer projectionist team — were true superheroes in a midnight border run against all odds.

It’s tricky getting print films for the old projector, with fewer kicking around, soon to be obsolete. Everyone was excited at the prospect of showing two great animated films, with class visits booked first thing April 19.

But two days before the screening, the prints hadn’t arrived and Asbell was getting nervous. Where were the films? Using his x-ray vision (and the UPS tracking number), he traced the delivery to — Wilmington, Ohio?

“The shipping label had been addressed to Nelson Civic Theatre Society, Nelson, BC, USA,” explains Asbell.

The films had been returned to sender.

One day before the screening, the films were shipped to Spokane. A courier could drive them to Metaline Falls that night, but couldn’t bring them across the border. Someone would have to meet him, or the kids of Nelville would wake to a sad day indeed.

Our superheroes leapt into action, racing through the dead of night, facing menacing border guards and working against the clock. Could they save the day in the nick of time?

“Try telling border guards that you intend to meet an unmarked car in a dark street in a border town to pick up a package you want to bring back to Canada,” says Asbell, who had to use superhero persuasion in advance.

Off they went, to meet a silver Toyota Scion in front of the theatre in Metaline Falls. Simple — except for one thing.

“It turns out that this little town has two theatres — on opposite sides of town,” says Asbell. “So we started driving in circles between the two, through the dark.”

It was getting later and later, and feeling more and more like a movie script, with grizzled characters offering dubious assistance and no courier in sight.

Finally, into the dark street rolled a silver vehicle and — Holy roll-’em, Batman! — the films had arrived.

Santano and Asbell used their special powers to negotiate their way back through Canada Customs and pulled into Nelson in the dawn light, capes a-flapping, just in time to begin building up the reels for the first class. Our superheroes had saved the day.

There’s been super-heroism in the air lately, as our community leaps financial hurdles to help the Nelson Civic Theatre go digital. No more middle-of-the-night cross-border film pickup. In fact, no more films at all.

What’s that, up in the sky? It’s — it’s — Digital Projection and Sound!

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds on donors, the goal of $150,000 for digital projection is within reach. How super is that? Success means digital films this summer, four days a week, in your movie theatre!

Come to the steps of the theatre at 5:30 p.m. today (May 1) to find out the final tally. It’s just one more example of how the generous people of Nelville — uh, Nelson — have yet again saved the day.


Anne DeGrace is the president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society. Large Popcorn, Extra Butter runs every two weeks. If you have a memory to share please email Find out more at


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