Civic Theatre executive director Eleanor Stacey makes a presentation to members Sunday during the annual general meeting. Photo: Tyler Harper

Civic Theatre uses fundraising push to get back into black

The theatre rebounded after a big financial loss in 2018

A fundraising push has helped the Civic Theatre recover from a significant financial loss.

The theatre had $3,830 excess of revenue over expenditures for the year ending July 31, according to statements made public at its annual general meeting Sunday.

That marks a major turnaround from the previous year’s AGM when the theatre revealed it had lost $14,000.

Following that AGM, executive director Eleanor Stacey said the society decided to focus more on its fundraising efforts. That resulted in $87,019 earned through fundraising, an increase of $33,712 over the previous year that made the difference in keeping the theatre’s finances out of the red.

“This organization was built on the premise that it would be self funding when it got to three screens,” said Stacey.

“The journey to get to three screens has proven to be longer than perhaps was originally anticipated, which is okay because fundraising does take time and we do need to build reputation and build programs and services.”

The theatre, which completed a three-year business plan last year that made the case for a $4.5-million expansion to three screens, continues to struggle with just one screen.

Studios such as Disney only agree to allow blockbuster films like Captain Marvel or the upcoming Star Wars movie to run at theatres for extended lengths of time, which in turn limits what the Civic can offer.

Such restrictions led to a drop in movies shown at the Civic from 81 in 2018 to 65 this year. Box office gross revenue fell over $14,000, and the time taken up by Hollywood’s biggest movies meant revenue from people and groups renting the Civic also fell $11,000 over the previous year.

Stacey said more studios are asking for similar restrictions and increased ticket sale revenue, which means not every big film debuts in Nelson on time. She pointed to the recently released Frozen 2, which is currently showing in Castlegar but won’t debut at the Civic until mid-January.

“As a film gets older, it typically costs less,” she said. “We pay less in our box office split to the distributor, and they also require it to be engaged for a shorter period of time.”

Still, Stacey is optimistic about the future.

In January, the City of Nelson granted the theatre a $1-million line of credit that allowed it to apply for a $2.7-million grant from the federal government’s Invest in Canada infrastructure program.

Stacey said a decision on the theatre’s application is expected by the end of the year, and if it goes through the estimated completion date for construction will be the end of 2020.

If the theatre doesn’t get the grant, Stacey said there will be other options including re-applying for the program’s next intake.

“We’ll keep at it. We have a model that’s exciting, we have a membership that’s passionate about what we’re doing. If we don’t get the money it will be disappointing, but it is by no means in my mind a closed door.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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