Nelson Civic Theatre redesign project underway

The Nelson Civic Theatre Society has hired an architectural team in the hopes of adding two more screens to the theatre.


The Nelson Civic Theatre Society has been quite busy over the last two years, all for the good of film and the arts in the West Kootenay city.

After the Nelson Civic Theatre sat dormant for a few years, a volunteer society was created with the goal of reopening the space. Since then the theatre has been equipped for digital format films and future plans include adding two more screens.

Marilyn Mint, president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society, said things are going well for the theatre.

"The society was formed in June of 2012 in response to the theatre having been closed at that point for over two years," said Mint. "There was a proposal to take over the space as an athletic club, but someone stood up and asked the question, 'Hey Nelson, do we really want to lose our only theatre?'"

A small group started meeting and sent a proposal to the City of Nelson, along with a very preliminary feasibility study. The group then started to develop a business plan for the theatre. At the same time, members started walking up and down the streets of Nelson and collected over 4,000 signatures from the public saying yes, please save our theatre.

The group became a society and spent the next four months detailing its business plan. To date it has over 2,300 members.

"In October of that same year we gave our detailed business plan to the city, they approved it and we began to clean the place up," said Mint. "We showed our first film there in February of 2013. At the time, we only had an old 35mm projector and some old seats that had been left behind by the Cineplex guys, who had left town in a hurry. We refurbished those and they were retrofitted and installed. We started showing films once a month and ran a community campaign to raise the $150,000 needed to buy and install digital equipment."

An ongoing process

The industry started phasing out 35mm films very quickly and all were being replaced by digital, which is why Mint said so many independent theatres started going under. A campaign in the spring of 2013 raised $180,000 and the theatre started showing films on a regular basis in June.

"It's going really well," said Mint. "Since we are a social enterprise, it means we have social goals, which are to involve the community as much as possible and turn any profits we earn back into the community. We will do this once we become a mature organization. Right now, we are still in our start-up phase and will be for a while."

Mint said the society knew its business plan was never going to be naturally sustainable over the long term with just a single screen in the theatre. The group wants to add in two more screens and become the cultural media hub in Nelson. Two more screens would allow the society to provide a venue for all kinds of media events to various community groups, including live theatre events.

Currently the Nelson Civic Theatre Society has awarded the contract for the newest development to Urban Arts Architecture and Thomas Loh Architect. Now the society needs to do a feasibility analysis of the building itself. It will be examined by structural, mechanical, electrical and acoustical engineers. The group hopes to start construction of the two new theatres in 2015.

"We are in active fundraising mode right now," said Mint. "This is a long term project that will be determined by the amount of funds that come in. We also want to install air conditioning for the upcoming summer and hope to renovate our lobby area to allow for more space and a better concession. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, but we are excited about the future of the theatre." 

Karen Kornelsen

Karen Kornelsen, a writer for Kootenay Business Magazine, has a degree in jounalism. She enjoys finding and reporting the news from the business community. View all of Karen Kornelsen’s articles

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