UPDATED: Nelson Civic Theatre seeks digital projector

Nelson Civic Theatre Society got a lesson in the new reality of the movie industry as it struggled to find a 35 mm film to show at its first movie night on February 23.

Many movie studios refuse to ship the film reels; instead they want to send cartridges with the digital film file which can only be read by a special $80,000 to $90,000 digital projector.

"The movie industry is really muscling people into going digital,"  explains society vice president Roger Ley. "The 35 mm films are impossible to source."

First run movie houses started upgrading to digital projectors around 2009, so they could start showing 3D blockbusters. Once movie studios realized the money they could save by sending digital copies of films on small cartridges — instead of printing 35 mm film wrapped around heavy mental canisters — they started phasing out the old format.

Ley says it's not just new releases that aren't being produced for 35 mm — it's everything. Even older movies that are already printed on film reels have been reproduced in digital format and the originals aren't being sent out anymore.

"I think they must all be sitting in a warehouse somewhere and [movie studios] refuse to send them out," Ley says.

Despite these challenges, the society announced Monday that it had found a film available in 35 mm. The theatre will be screening James Bond Skyfall. It will be the first film shown at the theatre in three years.

During an open house at the Civic Theatre on Sunday, more than 200 curious community members popped in for a look at the work that's been done in the old movie house since the theatre society took it over last November.

In the past month, the theatre floor has been sanded and painted and seat posts were installed for 250 chairs at the front of the auditorium (seating in the upper level will have to wait until they find more seat posts). The open house doubled as a work party for people interested in helping install the seat backs and bottoms.

It was also a chance for the society to make a fundraising plea. Namely, to cover the cost of that digital projector they need.

Ley told the story of one BC movie theatre that fundraised all the money it needed for a new projector in just one week, after 1,000 movie lovers each wrote a cheque for $90.

"We could do that here, if you all wanted to, and we could start showing movies next week," Ley prodded.

More realistically, he expects it will take until until September to get the money together for the projector.

In the meantime, the Civic will fundraise through monthly movie screenings, seat sponsorship ($250 to have your name on a chair) and membership sales ($25 for adults, $15 for students and seniors).

The City of Nelson will issue a tax receipt for donations ear marked for the Civic Theatre renovation.

For more details on ways to make a financial donation, as well as volunteer opportunities for people who would rather contribute their time, see


Liquor sales pondered

Alcohol could be one of the concession items movie goers can purchase at the Civic Theatre concession when it opens for regular business.

A change to provincial liquor laws announced last spring made it possible for movie theatres to obtain licences to legally serve alcohol in theatre lobbies or in adult-only auditoriums.

Nelson Civic Society vice president Roger Ley said the society will seek feedback from its membership to see if alcohol is something they want available at the theatre.

"Once we have the space divided into a three-screen multiplex, we could have one theatre designated [for ages] 19-plus for people who want to drink during the movie," Ley said.

All-ages auditoriums aren't eligible for a liquor license because it would be difficult, in a darkened theatre, to ensure the alcohol wasn't being shared with minors.

Ley said the Civic Theatre stage may also be used for live events, and the liquor licence could help generate move revenue for those events.

"We want the Civic to be more than just a movie theatre," Ley said. "Ultimately it's another venue in town, with a stage and comfortable seats — there's lots of possibilities for what we could do with it."

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