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.
- 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
- March 2012: Stephen Collins puts out a call to save our theatre.
- April 2: Cindy Sherry calls a meeting to save the theatre. City Council extends deadline for proposals to May 31.
- April 5 2012: Over 60 people attend the meeting. Plans are set afoot.
- May 27 2012: We have collected over 4200 signatures to save our theatre!
- May 31 2012: NCTS submits our initial proposal to City Council
- June 15, 2012: NCTS presents an initial proposal and is granted 4 months to complete a feasibility study and business plan by Council
- June 20, 2012: NCTS is officially born. A non-profit Social Enterprise! Our Board of Directors are elected
- Aug 16, 2012: Our online membership form is born. 315 existing members. We first announce the possibilities of a community run digital theatre.
- Sept 7 2012: 625 Members!
- Sept. 10 2012: NCTS has over 800 members!
- Sep 18, 2012: NCTS hosts a free movie at the Capitol Theatre to raise awareness and signup more members.
- Sept. 20 2012: Save On Foods backs our project and invites customers to become members.
NCTS Reaches 1000 Members
- Sept. 30, 2012: NCTS reaches 1000 Members!
- Oct. 22 2012: NCTS presents it’s proposal to City Council
- Nov. 5 2012: NCTS receives unanimous support from City Council and is handed the keys
- Nov-Dec 2012: Much work is done cleaning and clearing.
- Dec 15 2012: Volunteer clean up crew scrub the theatre from top to bottom.
- Jan 7 2012: Our first staff job postings! Looking for 2 project managers. Sue Adam and Roger Ley hired
- Jan. 27 2013: NCTS hosts an open house to invite public to view our challenge and present our plan.
- Jan 29 2013: NCTS begins push for a new digital projector.
- Feb 1 2013: NCTS receives coverage in the National Post for our efforts saving our theatre.
The Civic Theatre Re-Opens it’s Doors to Nelson
- Feb. 20 2013: The Civic Theatre RE-OPENS! James Bond’s Skyfall on the cleaned up 35mm projector to a sold out, costumed audience.
- Feb. 28 2013: NCTS receives a $60,000 gift from a local community member to kick off our Community Challenge
- Mar. 11 2013: Save On Foods steps up support for our Community Challenge
- Mar. 19 2013: NCTS begins selling advanced online tickets for movie nights.
- Mar. 21 2013: We host our second movie weekend – spaghetti westerns, Django Unchained
- April 11 2013: NCTS announces it’s Civic Ambassador program.
- April 24 2013: NCTS and the City of Nelson announce online Donations are now available and qualify for Charitable tax receipts.
- May 1 2013: Our community completes and surpasses the Community Challenge raising $181,425.00 in 2 months.
- May 25 2013: My American Cousin, our final 35mm film, and our old projector goes dark
- Jun 6 2013: Our first delivery of the new digital system starts arriving.
- Jun 7 2013: Leading up to our first digital movie, our friends at the Capitol Theatre announce 10% off costume rentals for all Civic Theatre events.
- Jun 13 2013: Our new Digital Projector and 7.1 surround system gets a test drive, just days before our grand re-opening!
The Civic Theatre Goes Digital
- Jun 14 2013: The Civic Theatre re-opens: digital picture, 7.1 surround sound. Star Trek Into Darkness kicking off a summer of regular weekly blockbusters. The Civic hires its first concession staff, ticket staff, and cleaning crew!
- Jun 20 2013: The Civic Theatre begins regular Thursday night indie-films
- Jun. 28, 2013: NCTS begins handing out membership cards to it’s 2200 members at Marketfest
- July 17 2013: The Civic Theatre opens its doors to the first fundraiser for a local society.
- July 22 2013: Global TV broadcasts a story of our successful fundraising drive.
- July 25 2013: The Civic Theatre hosts our first private rental, live event on our stage. Weekly movies continue.
- September 22 2013: NCTS hosts our first Annual General Meeting – 297 members attend, breaking world records (we think)
- Oct. 8 2013: To help with overwhelming demand for the theatre (and more work than we could have imagined!) we announce plans to hire a new assistant manager.
- Oct 31 2013: The Civic Theatre hosts its first (annual?) Rocky Horror Picture Show. Many costumes witnessed. Many strange images irrevocably burned in to brains.
- Nov. 6 2013: NCTS releases a Request For Proposal to hire an architectural team to design the three-screen future of our theatre.
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.