The push to save Nelson’s Civic Theatre got a shot of adrenaline last week when more than 60 people turned out for a meeting.
Early last week, Cindy Sherry put word out in the Star that she was interested in hearing from people who wanted to keep the city’s movie theatre running films. The meeting was scheduled for Thursday afternoon at the Vienna Café, but the number of people who showed up required the meeting to be moved to the Best Western Baker Street Inn.
“In one way I was surprised, but in another not really,” Sherry said of the response. “I knew there was too much silence in this town and we needed to be sparked. Whether it was the [Nelson Star] article about those nice fellas that want to open the theatre as something different or me stepping forward… I think it was getting down to the wire so somebody was going to come forward and draw out all those romantic film buffs out of the woodwork.”
The Civic Theatre has not shown a movie since September, 2010 when the City of Nelson terminated the lease of the long time operator. Though a proponent stepped forward a few months later with a plan to turn the theatre into the Nelson Cinemax, that plan fizzled after the old seats were torn out.
Last month the Nelson Downtown Athletic Club proposal was pitched to city council. The plan suggests turning the theatre into a multi-use sports facility that would include squash courts, a climbing wall and small gymnasium. It would be a private business and be tax neutral.
With time running out — the original request for proposals for the building was to close on April 17 — Sherry decided to spearhead a last ditch effort to save the theatre.
“It’s just the start, the important thing was to get a dialogue going,” Sherry said of the meeting. “This is a big decision and some people feel very passionate about this building.”
Enthusiasm at the meeting was high and many ideas were put forward. At this point Sherry said they are putting together a core committee who will move forward with the next step. They are planning another meeting for later this week.
“There was a lot of passion in that room, so now we have to see what happens,” she said.
At this point Sherry said the most likely route the new committee will head is to pursue a non-profit model based on the theatre in Salmon Arm.
“This is too expensive for a business or a business person to come through and run this. They wouldn’t get their money back for a long time,” said Sherry. “I really think the way for this to work is as a community. We have to share it and people have to be patient.”
Though lots of ideas were thrown around and plenty of enthusiasm exists for fundraising ideas, Sherry said they are currently looking for two key members on the committee — somebody with a financial background and somebody with an idea about what it would take to renovate a building.
“It’s opening a can of worms,” Sherry said of the current state of the theatre. “If you have ever done a house renovation, we all know what happens once you start to knock walls down.”
Last week, city council extended the deadline for proposals to May 31. Sherry said even that timeframe might be difficult to meet.
“To have a concrete proposal made, that will not be enough time,” she said. “But we got the impression of we came up with an adequate proposal [by that time] to give them something to work with, then that might be acceptable.”
The new group will get an opportunity to look inside the building for the first time on April 17.
On Saturday theatre proponents were in the downtown rounding up signatures on a survey/petition. Due to the long weekend and many people being out of town, they plan on being out in force again this coming Saturday.
“It has momentum now so we are going to really charge on now and build on it,” said Sherry.
Anybody interested in helping the committee or finding out more information are asked to email CivicTheatre2012@gmail.com.