Nelson’s Civic Theatre launches $3-million fundraiser for more screens

The society wants to build a theatre that is home to a collaborative and inspired screen-based industry.

'The Civic Theatre employs a total of 17 people

The Nelson Civic Theatre Society has expansive, expensive plans for the future.

The non-profit theatre’s executive director Eleanor Stacey talked about that future at a Nelson city council meeting on July 18. She didn’t ask council for money, but for declarations of support for grant applications that will amount to $3-million over the next few years.

That’s the cost of building two smaller theatres of less than 100 seats and of renovations to the current auditorium, for a total of three screens.

“As a single-screen theatre we are not really viable in the long term,” Stacey told the Star in an interview. “We are now four years into it, and this is not just an idea or an opinion: we can absolutely attest to the truth that a single screen is not a viable long-term model.”

That’s because the theatre has to follow the dictates of the big movie studios by running their blockbusters for a week or more, or not at all. Not to run them would threaten the financial survival of the theatre. But while they are running: no special events, no independent films, no documentaries.

With three screens, the theatre could enter what Stacey calls the screen-based industry, a new term that describes activities that are movies and much more.

“I don’t call myself a futurist,” she says, “but when you are working in a technological setting you have to be one.”

An imaginary marquee for the Civic Theatre in 2021

Stacey said the society wants to build a theatre that is “home to a collaborative and inspired screen-based industry membership and community. I see us as a place to create more educational programs, more collaboration with other organizations, more dialogue-based programming. We want to be the kind of place that can bring exciting ideas into the community and put exciting ideas out.”

She said newly installed fibre optic cable will enhance these possibilities.

“For example, we could use our fibre optic for when someone needs to upload or download very large files. Or make fibre optic available to artists because artists do great things with new toys, so there may be a point where an artist here can work with an artist in another country and they can collectively build something.”

The society leases the theatre premises from the city.

Stacey said the theatre has recently achieved charitable tax status, so donations are tax deducible. Her full presentation to city council can be found here.

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