Juliette Binoche stars in Clouds of Sils Maria.

COLUMN: The Thursday night private reserve

"Many large theatres don’t offer films like Clouds of Sils Maria — they wouldn’t ever try."

In the last few weeks, Civic Theatre programmer Jason Asbell and I have been talking a bit about what is coming out of Hollywood right now through the summer, and thinking carefully about what to screen when.

In film release terms, we talk a lot about what we should open “on the break” (which means on the North American release date) and what can wait a few weeks, giving us the flexibility to play something unique alongside the mainstream.

It’s a strategic decision, informed by what we hear that people are eager to see, and at times mired by what the distributors will make available to an independent theatre like us, and what else we may want to show at the same time. Let’s just say it’s more complicated than simply picking a film.

But then there are the Thursday night movies. Thoughtfully curated one-night films, intended to entertain, educate, and provoke, they aren’t the profit-driven blockbusters, but they pack considerable punch. If we were a winery, Thursday night films would be our private reserve.

This weekly offering is one of the things that makes the Civic Theatre markedly unique, and notably community-interested. In fact, I think that the Thursday night offering embodies sentiments that have been at home in Nelson for a long time; a desire to sculpt the experiences that we have here, ask inquisitively about the world beyond our physical community, and enjoy diverse and engaging dialogue. At the Civic, this happens through experiencing our films, but just as importantly, through the more-than-probable chance to see friends and neighbours in line.

I love this multi-faceted opportunity to connect. Of course, the Nelson Civic Theatre Society was formed to run our movie theatre, but it is worth recalling to ourselves from time to time just how truly special it is that local and far-reaching connectivity, collaboration, and thought provocation were central to our inception, and continue to be inherent parts of our vision.

I started thinking about this when I began to read about the Thursday night film next week (May 7). Featuring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, the synopsis of Oliver Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria reminds me of great plays and novels, touching on deeply human topics like identity, aging and loneliness. One review mentions that it is a film about questions, not answers, which is pretty much the most provocative offer an artist or director can make: Not sure what to think? Decide for yourself. It is also one of the ideas that makes artistic expression so important to a healthy society — it is in the presence of diverse opinions, and in having the space to form our own thoughts, that we continue to grow.

Many large multiplex theatres don’t offer films like Clouds of Sils Maria — they wouldn’t ever try. Yet here we have a community with a Thursday night cultural habit, and there is a continuity of experience that comes from attending often. To those of you who come out regularly for Thursday night films, thank you, and we look forward to seeing you soon.

And to those readers who might ask yourselves why we cleave a week of Hollywood films with something completely different every Thursday, we invite you to come out and be part of a marvellous weekly story with friends, and decide for yourself.

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society.

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