COLUMN: Let’s make it super on Thursdays again

Tell us how we can get the big crowds back

JASON ASBELL

Large Popcorn, Extra Butter

When asked what major difference sets Nelson’s Civic Theatre apart from your run-of-the-mill commercial movie house, I immediately refer to our Thursday night movies: an opportunity, though only slight in our current single-screen configuration, to provide Nelson with art-house offerings usually reserved for bigger cities. Independent Sundance Festival darlings, international masters and up-and-comers get the big-screen presentations they deserve in the shared cultural experience of a movie theatre.

And if you ask anyone else in town, I bet they’d say the same.

We are lucky that Nelson has such a thirst for culture and is so community-minded; otherwise these short windows into the wider world of cinema would not be possible in a community of our size, in a single-screen venue.

As many of you already know, to get the flexibility to play these one-off screenings, we have to play most major films later (in their third or fourth week) and potentially lose some of Nelson’s audience, but as a programmer, I believe this is a worthwhile sacrifice and thankfully, I feel supported in this, from an amazing board and community that sees the value of diversity on screen. So often our ‘Contact Us’ emails are inquiries into whether, if and when, we will be bringing in a certain major picture before simply going to see it as soon as it hits one of the five screens of our neighbors down the highway. Thank you for that.

The last three Thursday films we have screened were all international gems: The Square from Sweden, up for best Foreign Language film at both the Golden Globes and Oscars and winner of the Palme D’Or at Cannes; Germany’s In The Fade, winner of The Golden Globe best foreign language film; and Fantastic Woman from Chile, which just won the best foreign language Oscar. However all three were presented at a loss with a combined attendance of only 77 people over the three screenings.

Clearly remembering our inaugural year of operation under The Nelson Civic Theatre Society, and our average of 120-140 people per Thursday night screening, I am searching for answers. Help me here: how do we get that good ol’ Thursday excitement back?

I certainly recognize the challenge of one-night screenings, especially in the midst of the many great Oscar-nominated titles programmed around the aforementioned gems. We hear the reasons why people don’t come:

“Well I wanted to see it but… I was busy with work and didn’t find time to check the listings, the marquee confused me as I tried to read it from my car, my movie date didn’t want to go out and out of respect I didn’t want to abandon her to her own Netflix binge, my glasses broke and I couldn’t read subtitles, I had already blown the budget on 4 movies that month, I had already gone out twice that week to non-movie stuff so it was time I put my feet up, it was cold out, I had book club, I already had a tea in my hand and had sat on a couch…”

If any of these reasons listed here, or any others, ring true for you, I’d love to hear from you. Although Nelson Civic Theatre Society’s efforts to add a second and hopefully a third screen to the venue will minimize these challenges in the future, in the meantime I would love your help to bolster our Thursday night one-offs . Send your comments and suggestions to jason@civictheatre.ca.

Like those mentioned above, our next two Thursday night movies are subtitled as well: Loveless from Russian director, Andrey Zvyagintsev on March 8th and Happy End from Austrian director, Michael Haneke on March 15th. If we as a community value this kind of programming, we have to fix those reading glasses, continue to collectively support The Civic’s Thursday nights (and consequently the subtitle industry), and get our butts in to the big comfy seats at The Civic on Thursdays.

All our screenings are on civictheatre.ca. You can also support the theatre by starting or renewing your Civic membership; members get $2 off at the box office, both online and at the door. Our popcorn is the best around, and you’ll see friends almost every time you walk through our door. It’s a great night to see a movie.

Jason Asbell is the Theatre Manager, Programmer and babe in the woods for The Civic Theatre

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