Young Shoebox Theatre patron RF, sporting his 10th anniversary of NCTS T-shirt. Photo: Submitted

Young Shoebox Theatre patron RF, sporting his 10th anniversary of NCTS T-shirt. Photo: Submitted

LARGE POPCORN, EXTRA BUTTER: Celebrating something old and something new at the Civic Theatre

Eleanor Stacey writes about the new Shoebox Theatre

by Eleanor Stacey

This June, Nelson Civic Theatre Society (NCTS) is celebrating our oldest and newest achievements.

First, it was on June 20, 2012, that NCTS was formed. Nelson’s Civic Theatre had been closed and was being considered for other purposes, and the birth of this new society began the next chapter of the then 76-year-old deco-era theatre’s existence.

More than 4,200 people had signed a petition to reopen the theatre, and 2,500 people bought memberships in that first year — an astounding show of support for a non-profit arts organization in any community, but truly spectacular for a community the size of Nelson.

Since then, our board and staff have worked tirelessly, first to get the theatre reopened, including re-installing seats, buying projection and sound equipment, adding air conditioning, cleaning bathrooms, and learning all about the cinema industry, then building on those initial successes by becoming a registered Canadian charity, continuing to upgrade and add to our theatre technology, expanding and diversifying our film programming, and growing our programs and services to the community.

Today, NCTS is so much more. Screening films remains central to our mission and service, but we also are the home for the Kootenay screen-based industry, a founding partner of the Kootenay Regional Film Commission and the Rural Arts Inclusion Lab, a significant youth employer, and home to a suite of signature programs for our community ranging from the Zombie Walk to Home for the Holidays and the all-ages New Year’s Eve Pajama Party, our annual Oscar Awards event, and so much more.

During the pandemic we even added a drive-in theatre and Reo’s Video to our family of programs. We continue to fundraise and prepare for our large-scale capital renovation of The Civic Theatre, transforming our original space into a three-screen venue to ensure its future. At every turn, we have continued to think of what we can do for our community now and in the future, and how our efforts contribute to the culture and quality of life of the people who live here.

And now, we are on the cusp of our newest development: the unveiling of The Shoebox Theatre — a new 21-seat theatre coupled with Reo’s Video at 225 Hall St. While it is small it is mighty: The Shoebox viewing experience is unparalleled, a truly VIP room equipped with state-of-the-art cinema industry-compliant sound and projection, earmarked for one of our future renovated theatres. It also delivers some much-needed flexibility over film programming, as distribution terms often can lock us into exclusive engagements of films that last up to a month at The Civic Theatre. Through The Shoebox, we will be able to show far more independent titles that may not be right for a week of 300-seat screenings, but are still highly requested by niche audiences and deserve to be seen in a theatre. It will also be available for so many of the kinds of community events that, a few years back, Reo’s Video offered through its screening room, allowing for birthday parties and soirees with friends. And of course, all the film content you could want is onsite within the Reo’s Video collection.

On June 24, we will begin our grand opening weekend of the Shoebox Theatre. We have a special offer for the community to celebrate this NCTS milestone: come to 225 Hall St. and check out the new theatre, and select a film to see at any of our available screening times June 24 to 26. Bring your friends and family back to see your selected movie and any others that entice you. All screenings throughout the weekend will be free at The Shoebox.

If the last 10 years have been any indication, the next decade will be full of great new adventures too. We look forward to sharing them with you!

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of Nelson Civic Theatre Society, which operates The Civic Theatre, and the programs and services of 225 Hall St., including Reo’s Video and The Shoebox Theatre.