Community Papers

A film finale for the Clova Cinema

This weekend marks the final reel for the Clova Cinema, one of the last movie theatres in the region to rely on 35mm film.

Built through the sale of community bonds, the Clova Theatre opened in August 1947, entertaining successive generations of movie fans and creating new ones.

The single screen cinema has played host to weddings, concerts and plays, a celebration of life, countless first dates, and first movies.

Those in the know bring their own containers for discounts on popcorn and drinks, and drag sleepy youngsters in PJs to the night’s double bill.

Craig Burghardt and his family bought the business in August 1996, pledging to offer an evening’s affordable entertainment, and a firm commitment to the community, helping schools, sports teams and non-profits raise an estimated $100,000 through rentals and sponsorships.

Sixty-seven years on, the Clova faces an ending no Hollywood screenwriter would have the heart to devise. In March, the building was sold to a local church, ending Burghardt’s hopes of securing another long-term lease and effectively pulling the plug on the Clova’s hoped-for digital sequel.

Burghardt won’t miss sweeping up popcorn, but he will certainly miss his nine co-workers and the patrons.

“It’s a dream job. I would continue to do it if I could,” he said.

He won’t miss dealing with film companies, either. Even before the number of new movie titles released on film dwindled with the digital revolution, distributors were making it difficult for small businessmen like Burghardt to turn a profit, insisting on exclusivity and a greater share of box office receipts.

“In a way, I wasn’t my own boss,” he said. “The film companies, I won’t miss. It markedly changed over the past 10 years.”

The movie-going public’s habits have changed, too.

“Honestly, it’s harder to get people out to the movies,” he said, pointing to the rise of home digital services like Netflix and vastly improved TV offerings in recent years.

He’s not sure what he’s going to do next. “There are no job offers on the table,” said Burghardt. “I’ll probably take a couple of months off and reassess things. Most people ask me what I’ll do after it closes and I say, ‘I’ll probably cry for a week.’”

Despite the looming closure, staff – some of whom have worked at the Clova for more than a decade – have “stuck with it to the end,” he said. “They’ve all hung in there. I didn’t even ask them that.”

Rather than go quietly into the darkness, the cinema presents a classic and classy finale, starting with Friday night’s screening of the ultimate cult film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at 9:30 p.m. (costumes and props encouraged), the Second Annual Amazing Race Cloverdale on Aug. 2, followed by ABRA Cadabra, a tribute to the music of ABBA later that night. The Clova says adieu after 67 years Aug. 3 with a scavenger hunt at 1 p.m., followed by the Great Clova Auction, where fans can bid on a piece of Clova history.

As its final act, the Clova Cinema is going out the same way it debuted on May 26, 1947 – by playing the movie Dead Reckoning, a film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott.

Back then, patrons paid $1 for the privilege – opening night was a fundraiser for Surrey Memorial Hospital.

This time it’s on the house.

Tickets for all events – except Dead Reckoning, which is playing for free – are on sale now at the box office at 5732 176 Street, Surrey. Visit

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