Skip to content

LARGE POPCORN, EXTRA BUTTER: The Civic Theatre is closed, but The Shoebox is thriving

Jason Asbell writes about what’s coming to Nelson’s single-screen
The Civic Theatre may be closed due to renovations, but there’s plenty being shown at The Shoebox. Photo: Submitted

by Jason Asbell

The Civic Centre is almost done being prepped for the huge, much-needed structural roof repair. Unfortunately, what this means for Nelson Civic Theatre Society is that we are now down to one-screen again; and that one screen is small, a Shoebox in fact.

While extremely grateful for this second venue, we must acknowledge the fact that at a 20-seat capacity, The Shoebox Theatre’s real strength was what it allowed us in the realm of programming, not financial support. With the ability to book more titles and share them across both screens, large and small, instead of having to settle on a single title with exclusive long engagements of the old single-screen model, we could serve more demographics and tastes simultaneously.

However, without the more reliable income generated from the larger occupancy of The Civic Theatre, the box office from The Shoebox, even with sell-outs, barely covers its own operating costs, let alone keeps core staff critical to the capital project, community programs and services and base operations paid.

So what is our solution for this round of closure and return to a single-screen status? Well, it won’t be by running the Shoebox Theatre as a single-screen like we did The Civic Theatre when it was a single-screen; with blockbusters eating up to four-week exclusive runs at 64 per cent box office splits.

Instead we embrace the smaller stature of The Shoebox by pairing it with the smaller and mid-tier theatrical releases of an arthouse theatre. Later-run independent, international and documentary films often enjoy much more favourable terms as far as splitting runs and lower distributor box office splits. On top of this, we will also borrow from our Civic Theatre single-screen Thursday night movie past, and run The Shoebox arthouse on volunteer power.

So yes, it’s not ideal, but it is time to come together as a community to keep this valuable asset afloat while we face this next challenge. Our membership has always been key to what makes The Civic Theatre such a success story, and by keeping The Shoebox running, we also keep access to the best member benefit we have: free video borrowing from the extensive Reo’s Video collection!

So, how can we all help?

Well, first off make sure your membership is up to date or become a member if you aren’t already. The benefit of free video borrowing from Reo’s and $2 off at the box office pays for itself very quickly, but the strength of our membership numbers also help our fundraising and grant writing efforts immensely.

Secondly, come to the movies. The collection of movies we have pre-programmed over May are amazing. We are going to run two screenings a day to increase the capacity to 40-seats per day and we are aiming for sell-outs, or close to sell-outs, across the line-up. The quality of the cinema presentation and programming promises to make your visit to The Shoebox a great experience while the Civic is closed. Visit for showtimes and descriptions of the films.

Thirdly, volunteer. If you want to learn how to operate professional cinema projection and audio equipment, and want to live the dream of being a video store clerk for two or more shifts a month, we’d love to hear from you.

Finally, donations for supporting continued operations during this difficult and restrictive time keep our core team working and able to bring the world of cinema to our community, and what a world tour May’s program is:

Continuing from our recent run of the sublime film Perfect Days, we show two more of the Best International Oscar nominated films, the Senegalese/Italian, Io Capitano, and The Teachers’ Lounge, from Germany continue on The Shoebox screen.

Also coming: the VIFF audience awarded The Monk with a Gun from Bhutan; The Taste of Things starring Juliette Binoche, and the latest film from Vietnamese-French director Anh Hung Tran; and Shayda, an Australian film featuring an Iranian mother and daughter seeking refuge in an Australian women’s shelter, all submitted as their respective country’s entry for the Best International category.

The supernatural Korean mystery horror Exhuma; Anthony Hopkins in One Life about Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 600 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia; and finally the animated documentary They Shot the Piano Player, narrated by Jeff Goldblum about a music journalist who sets out to uncover the truth about Fancisco Tenorio Junior, a young Brazilian samba-jazz pianist who disappeared in Buenos Aires on March 18, 1976, completes the tour.

Infused into the batch over the coming weeks, we include some truly indie fantastical entries, Problemista, Riddle of Fire, La Chimera, Sasquatch Sunset, and heady sci-fi romance from France and Canada, The Beast. Don’t miss a couple more gems from the U.K., the biting British Comedy, Wicked Little Letters, and a drama from the auteur Ken Loach, The Old Oak.

And standing in a league all its own, Luca Guadagnino’s latest starring Zendaya, Challengers, plays May 17-23.

Look also for youth summer Sketch Camp registration, backyard cinema packages and a possible new drive-in revival in our future. Keep updated at

Jason Asbell is programming director for The Civic Theatre.