Civic Theatre Society’s Josh Wapp stands with his fistful of cash after another successful fundraising weekend at the Nelson theatre late last month where they showed Fistful of Dollars and Django Unchained.

Tails of the Nelson Civic Theatre, then and now

Kim Barker remembers the time she was sitting in the theatre on a summer evening when things got a little — wild.

All kinds go to the movies. Kim Barker remembers the time she was sitting in the theatre on a summer evening when things got a little — wild.

Perhaps the doors were open to let the cooler evening air in. Perhaps being a movie lover isn’t just for bipeds. I mean, doesn’t everyone love a good film?

“We thought it was a cat at first,” says Barker, describing the visitor as it rubbed up against the legs of unsuspecting people sitting in the aisle rows. “And then…pandemonium!”

It was, of course, a skunk.

The only thing you’ll smell when you come to the Deconstructing Dinner film fest movies this Saturday ( or our Earth Day weekend movies April 19 to 22 ( is freshly popped popcorn.

It’s a smell that was missing from the building for three long years. A lot of people have missed that smell, and have fond memories of the theatre exactly as it was.

There is understandable nostalgia for the Civic, wildlife notwithstanding: one screen, the old projector, mono sound, and that coveted front row mezzanine seat where you had a pony wall to put your drink on. But some critters must change their stripes to survive, and the Civic Theatre is no different.


Why three screens?

Distributors require that content be shown for a consecutive series of days, or you can’t show the film. For a town the size of Nelson, that can mean having to show a film long after everyone has seen it. Night after night of empty seats does not spell success — or even sustainability. With three screens, that new film can move from the main theatre to a smaller one, so there is always something new to see, and happy distributors.

With three screens, a community group can stage a play or concert or special event while films are running in adjacent theatres. With three screens comes flexibility.


What about chopping up that grand old space?

Walk up the ramp and if you’re a skunk — or even if you’re not — things look pretty much the same. Turn around, and enter either of the two small theatres. Miss that pony wall for your drink? No worries when the seats now have cupholders! The Civic will still be the Civic Theatre — your theatre.


So why digital?

There will be no 35mm print movies made after this year. No more huge reels to ship, no splicing a broken film on the fly (board member and former Civic projectionist Darryl Santano has a few good stories about that). The Civic must go digital, or go home.


But I still love the way it was!

Remember it was closed for three years? It’s a tough business. We want to bring that shared experience of the big screen back, and enable local programming. To be a successful community non-profit enterprise, we need to be more flexible than we could ever be with one space.

The Civic Theatre will always attract wildlife, if not our ubiquitous stripey friend, then certainly Nelson’s eclectic hominid variety.

This time around, the Nelson Civic Theatre will be a theatre for everyone: community-driven, sustainable, and making new memories for years to come.


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


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