For every ticket purchased to one of the Civic Theatre’s online screenings, you can donate another ticket to a local frontline service group. File photo

For every ticket purchased to one of the Civic Theatre’s online screenings, you can donate another ticket to a local frontline service group. File photo

COLUMN: How the Civic Theatre is paying it forward

Executive director Eleanor Stacey explains a new initiative

The week of March 16 was a strange one. It felt a little like our daily team video call was a chorus of “I’m OK. Are you OK?” for a little while, until we moved into “We can’t show movies, so what can we do?” Then the innovation followed.

We found distributors with online options for new independent films. We brainstormed ways to converse and connect with our patrons through Facebook Live presentations and our Thursday night Cinema Club conversations about our most recent screenings.

We have loved the community-created #civiccovideochallenge entries about food, COVID-appropriate fashion choices, and the sentiments of our pets surrounding our newfound homebody-ness. And we are happy to keep popping our much-loved popcorn on Fridays. Especially if it reminds our patrons of just how good it will feel to come back to The Civic and enjoy a bag with an extra shake of Civic spice while lounging in our comfy seats and seeing a new release on our big screen with Dolby 7.1 surround sound. Sooner than later, we hope.

For now, it continues to be a busy time, even with our physical doors closed to the public. Beyond these outward-facing public programming and community engagement efforts, our Screen-Based Industry initiative is still moving along, with virtual meetups and research underway to inform our future three-screen venue.

Our new Rural Arts Inclusion Lab programming is still developing, with work to pivot for the time being to a fully-online space. We continue to work behind the scenes on other programs and services that are in development for future seasons. It may not be business as usual, but it is a busy, exciting time nonetheless.

We have been looking for ways to make a difference during this strange, unprecedented time. We see so many people on the frontlines in health care, policing, emergency services, and at the grocery store, and our team has been thinking of how we can help to support this tireless, often thankless work in a meaningful way.

This is why we started Pay it Forward with The Civic’s Virtual Cinema. For every ticket purchased to one of our online screenings, patrons will get the opportunity to donate tickets to a local frontline service group when our theatre reopens. To see what we are screening right now, check out our listings at, currently boasting a wide selection of great independent titles!

If there is a local frontline company, organization, or service group you would like to suggest as a recipient of Pay it Forward tickets from the Civic Theatre, please fill in our online form (also on our website) and tell us why.

If you aren’t a member of Nelson Civic Theatre Society yet or if you haven’t gotten around to renewing your membership, I hope you might consider starting or renewing your membership now. We will begin your membership year the day we reopen, but we could really use the support of your membership fee now.

And finally, if it is within your means, please consider a gift to the Civic Theatre today. While we are a charitable organization, unlike many other cultural entities, we do not receive core operating funding from any level of government. Ticket and concession sales are our bread and butter. Even with the generous emergency funding we have accessed to date, being closed has taken a significant toll on our financial position. At this time, we could really use a little help from our friends.

We are so grateful for our community’s patronage and for your love of our community cinema. Particular thanks to everyone who has jumped on board with our new virtual screenings recently. You’ve been so patient as we all navigate these new online platforms together and we’re so grateful for the support. We hope to see you at some of our online events in the coming weeks, and in our lobby in person sometime soon.

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of Nelson Civic Theatre Society

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