All dressed up for The Civic’s annual New Year’s Eve pajama party. Photo submitted

COLUMN: Glancing backward and gazing forward at The Civic

The Civic’s top ten movies of the year, and more from Brian May

By Brian May

2019 is in the books. It’s fading fast in the rearview mirror. It’s 1,000 photos in your iPhone. It’s … well, you get the picture. Welcome to 2020.

The other day my brother sent me a story from The Guardian that said in part, “Mere days after Christmas, as we’re still basking in the warm afterglow of generosity and peace, New Year’s Eve bursts in like a late party guest and demands that you turn the music up.”

I don’t fully agree with the picture. New Year’s Eve is what you make it. Living nestled in lower Uphill, we usually hear a few midnight whoops from downtown but that’s it. On that last lingering day, the snow had been drifting down, leaving caps on the fence posts and blankets on the Japanese maple that graces our lawn. As the tree lights glistened, we gathered a few treats and made our way to a friend’s home to see the year out.

And The Civic hosted a pajama party. Moviegoers were invited to come in early, share some warm cider, and enjoy Star Wars with a few hundred close friends. As it happens there was a power outage halfway through the showing but, disregarding that wee setback, community events like that can keep the warm afterglow flowing into the next year.

But where were we before the power went out? Aside from the growth in community and economic programming in 2019 The Civic hosted over 40,000 regular movie attendees, added 5,000 or so for private community rental shows, presented 124 individual movies including 65 independent films that didn’t even show at other local theatres, grew from 800 to 1,450 members, and popped an immeasurable amount of popcorn.

However, what entertainment prognosticators really like to do at this time of year is produce top 10 lists. Top 10 hockey goals, news events, songs, restaurants, and on and on. Fortunately, those lists are subjective because at The Civic we’d have a hard time even defining what top film means let alone quantify it.

Some franchise movies have to play two to four weeks so, overall, they get lots of viewers. Other movies grab the attention of passionate fans but only play for a few days. Then — Nelson being Nelson — a one-day presentation of a documentary will sell out well in advance.

The top 2019 movies by overall attendance in Nelson were Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Endgame. Both were seen by over 2,700 patrons and Star Wars is still going strong right into 2020. Other popular adult flicks included Joker, Rocketman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Downton Abbey. But two of our top films by single night attendance were the climbing movie Free Solo and the recent Fantastic Fungi about the impacts and connections of mushrooms. You have to know your market.

As we plan our Oscar season selections though, we may cast our gaze a bit wider. I started with a top 10 list that a Vancouver acquaintance put on Facebook. He’s an afficionado of good directors. The list ran the gamut from Scorsese’s The Irishman to Korean black-comedy Parasite to the Apollo 11 documentary, and the entertaining Knives Out. Seven of his choices played at The Civic.

Three movie critic lists published by the Georgia Straight generally agreed with him but each added a few unique choices. None of them mentioned Joker — which Nelson audiences loved — but the Golden Globes nominated that film and the recently released 1917. And that’s the kind of year it was. A wide variety of film genre, international hits, and content caught people’s eyes and it will be interesting to see how that plays out at annual awards.

So, you can expect that in early 2020 The Civic will bring in a few recent releases as well as a selection of award contenders that you may have missed the first time. Then you can make your own list.

Whatever you chose to do as the new year dawned, I’m sure we all arrived at the same place, glancing backward and gazing forward. At The Civic we plan to do a bit of both. Wishing you all 2020 vision as you enter the new decade.

Brian May is a director of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society.

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