Civic TheatreIn the midst of the Depression, Nelson’s forefathers had a courageous vision for a facility that would bring people together for a wide array of activities.

Touted as “BC’s major building project of 1935,” the centre  was outfitted with our auditorium, featuring the most modern theatrical and celluloid film technology. Since then, it has given citizens of Nelson and area more than eight decades of service.

The Civic’s Timeline

  • Pre-1930’s: Movies and live presentations shown at the Nelson Opera House (1898 – 1935), and the Gem, Starland, Emire, and Capitol theatres.
  • 1930: Mayor Barnes authorized by City Council to collect data for a new civic theatre/auditorium for Nelson. The site identified was the 800 block of Vernon Street, north side (former site of the Nelson Fair building).
  • December 1930: By-law for a $150,000 building to include library, market, city offices and auditorium was introduced and soundly defeated on Dec 24, 1930.
  • May 1934: Editorial in Nelson Daily News calls for City Council to bring a sound auditorium proposal to the public this year.
  • January 1935: Conceptual plans for a multifaceted complex presented, including skating and curling rinks and dressing rooms, auditorium, recreation/meeting hall with gallery, meeting rooms and offices.
  • March, 1935: Alderman Tom Waters heads committee to draw up arrangements for a new Nelson auditorium by-law. Architects McCarter & Nairne begin to work up plans for the new building. Managing committee of of 10 local community leaders formed to lead campaign for new centre.

Construction Begins

  • April 3, 1935: By-law passes for Civic Centre. Construction begins on skating/curling section, then proceeds to auditorium/recreation hall section.
  • April 25, 1936: Formal opening of the new auditorium; 954 seats.
  • July 3, 1936: Civic Centre Commission approached by businessmen interested in leasing the auditorium for movies. Unanimous decision: “no”.
  • 1937: Revenue for Civic Theatre for April – November 1937 was just $900. 10-year lease for a movie theatre was reconsidered, and the lessors signed a 10-year lease with a clause providing for continuous operation of the auditorium as a picture show with the possibility of a further 10 years, on a sliding scale of costs. The lease provided that community organizations could use the auditorium by arrangement with the lessors under a set scale of rates. Lessors included Messrs Winters and Butler, Beatty and Johnson’s Kootenay Amusement Company (later Civic Theatres Ltd).
  • 1938: Famous Players took over the lease and operated the theatre until the 1970s, after which a number of private operators leased the Civic Theatre until recently.

For more than 70 years, The Civic Theatre hosted film screenings, as well as touring shows, community theatre, live music, school presentations, and much more.  Following Famous Players’ management, it was run by a number of private operators, eventually closing in 2011.

  • 2011: The Civic Theatre Closes

Call Out to Save Our Theatre

NCTS Reaches 1000 Members

The Civic Theatre Re-Opens it’s Doors to Nelson

The Civic Theatre Goes Digital

Compiled by Shawn Lamb, Roger Ley

2013-Present, The Civic Theatre has focused on refining our operations, growing our capacity, presenting diverse film offerings to local audiences, building the ways that we serve our community, and raising funds to improve and diversify our venue.