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Theatre no closer to reality

Looking forward to this year’s crop of summer movies? You won’t be seeing them at the Civic Theatre
The Nelson Cinemax will not be opening anytime soon.

It will be fall at the earliest before movies are shown again in the old Civic Theatre.

The City of Nelson will seek new proposals for the closed facility after cancelling its agreement with the leaseholder.

City manager Kevin Cormack says council also rejected a revised proposal Monday from one of the former partners.

“Council decided it wasn’t strong enough to go ahead with and decided to put it back out to proposals,” Cormack says.

However, first an assessment will be done on the upgrades to date “so if we get a successful proponent, they know what the state of the building is before they sign an agreement with us.”

The assessment is not expected to be completed before June, and combined with the proposal call, ensuing negotiations, and completion of renovations, “I’d say likely it’s not going to [open] prior to the fall at the most optimistic.”

The consortium that took over the theatre last September from its longtime proprietors closed the facility for what was initially expected to be two months.

They renamed it the Nelson Cinemax and planned extensive upgrades. But after removing the seats, ordering new ones, and gutting the lobby, the project stalled. The lease was breached in January.

Cormack says a couple of other groups have since expressed interest, including one that toured the facility and felt it was actually an advantage that it’s now just a shell.

“The seats had to be replaced and some of the demolition has been done, so I think overall, that does make it easier for someone else,” he says.

Cormack adds the partners from the previous lease could try again, “but we weren’t comfortable with the current proposal… Obviously one of the key criteria is making sure the proponents have the financial capacity to deliver on what they say. We’ll certainly do a little more scrutiny in that regard.”

Cormack says although the city itself did not invest in the building, there is some money owing. “We’re still sorting out where we stand on the pluses and minuses of the original agreement,” he says.

He believes the leaseholders “had every intention” of completing the project, but it just didn’t work out.

Nelson Cinemax was a partnership between Vancouver residents Kirk Nielsen, Noah Marion, and Juan Cano. In an interview, Cano explained they were neighbours and casual acquaintances before teaming up on the theatre project.

Nielsen had experience running several other theatres in B.C., although presently is only involved with one in Fort St. James, which his sister manages. Cano has businesses in Mexico and Canada, but they are not theatre-related.

Cano says things soured in November over financing. He and Marion were unhappy with the slow progress of the project and refused to invest any more money.

Subsequently, Marion received a notice the rent was not being paid, the partnership dissolved, and Cano brought a revised proposal to the city on his own — which was rejected Monday night.

Although he didn’t want to reveal how much money he’s lost, Cano says he is not likely to pursue it any further.

“I’m done. I don’t want to waste my time. I stopped a few other projects trying to do this one and it didn’t go well. I won’t do another proposal.”

Cano says the stadium-style seats purchased for the theatre but not installed may revert to the city to help meet their outstanding obligations.

“I don’t want to be sued by the city,” Cano says, although the former partners may be headed to litigation between themselves. “It’s a complete mess for everybody.”

Nielsen was unavailable for comment Thursday.