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Questions & Answers

About NCTS

What is NCTS?

NCTS is the Nelson Civic Theatre Society.

NCTS was created as a volunteer-run, non-profit Social Enterprise on June 20, 2012 to save Nelson’s Civic Theatre. NCTS has now grown to a society with over 2200 members, working together not just to save our theatre (which we’ve done!) but to leverage the technology and potential of the venue to deliver economic, social and entertainment opportunities to Nelson and our surrounding communities.

NCTS now holds a 20-year lease to the Civic Theatre, situated in the Civic Centre in the heart of downtown Nelson. The City of Nelson, our landlord, fully support our vision, mission and goals and have been invaluable in our successes to date.

As a Social Enterprise, NCTS takes a business-like approach to running the Civic Theatre ensuring sustainable growth, solid best-practices and an eye on the bottom line however our primary mandate is to our community and our members. As a social enterprise we see the Civic Theatre as not just a source of entertainment, but also for learning, teaching and bringing our community together through local productions, strategic partnerships and other societies.



How can I contribute to this great project?

Make a Donation

We graciously accept donations of any amount. All donations are eligible for tax receipts if processed through the City of Nelson. Donations can be made online through the City of Nelson’s website, or can be dropped off at the theatre.  If paying by cheque and a tax receipt is desired, please make your cheque out to “The City of Nelson” and earmark it (memo field) to NCTS.

Tax receipts will be mailed to you by the City once your donation has been processed.


If you prefer, you can donate some of your time. Weekly we use volunteer ushers, and our indie-Thursday films are entirely run by volunteers (we use paid staff on other nights).  We also need help in fundraising, website development, and marketing.  If interested, drop us a line to connect with our volunteer coordinator.

Spread the word

If you support our project please tell your friends! The more people know and understand what we are attempting the more successful we will be.  We advertise in the paper, on the radio, on facebook, through this website and around town but the best publicity in Nelson is word-of-mouth.


What are NCTS’ fundraising goals?

During our feasibility study we contacted a quantity surveyor to estimate the costs of renovating our theatre and converting it from a single-screen to a three-screen venue. This outside estimate for construction, contingency, architectural fees, and equipment fees came in at $2.7 million.

Our successes to date have been raise the funds needed to convert the cinema to digital projection and sound and, in doing so, lay the groundwork for our Cultural Media Centre.

As we look forward, our next big project is a renovation of the concession and bringing air conditioning to theatre in time for next summer. Next we will be splitting the balcony from the main theatre to create our two 100-seat theatres increasing flexibility to allow the Civic Theatre to reach its full potential.

The $2.7M price tag has been split into logical phases to allow our theatre to remain open as much as possible, to build on our successes and to ensure we are never left with a half-complete renovation as this theatre suffered from in the past. Each phase will be well funded before construction begins, and thus – the sooner we can raise the money, the sooner Nelson and our surrounding community can maximize utilization of this great venue, offer fundraising opportunities for other local groups, and give back as our Social Enterprise model mandates.


Can a town our size raise $2.7M?


Our town and region have in the past shown it is capable of more than most communities our size, and we believe the Civic Theatre will be another example of this. If our community wants a Three Screen Theatre, it can, and will, find the resources needed to build it.

When we look at being more than just a cinema, when we add live performance, webinars, symposiums and more, when the Civic Theatre becomes a central resource for our community to tell stories, connect (through broadband) to the outside world, and bring our community together, then we are raising money for an entirely different kind of project. What we are in fact doing is building not just a three screen cinema, we are building a Cultural Media Centre.

Funding agencies are looking for projects that benefit communities in multiple ways; Projects that help youth, create new economic and learning opportunities, and help bridge communication silos – projects like the Civic’s Cultural Media Centre.

Can a town our size raise $2.7M? for a Three Screen Theatre that is also a multi-use, multi-media, future-looking resource for our community to share, yes, we believe it can.


How will this audacious fundraising goal not suck up all our resources?

We at NCTS are very cognizant of this concern. With so many other great causes and societies in town needing financial resources how can NCTS fund this project while still ensuring there is “enough to go around”?

We tackle this issue in a few ways:

  1. While it’s easy to think there are only so many slices in the small economic pie, we believe that a community that works together can create a bigger pie from which to share. Competition in a town our size helps no one. Collaboration on the other hand – building our community together – can open new financial opportunities that don’t exist for individual smaller projects. This is why we are actively engaging in building strategic partnerships with local groups to collaborate on the bigger story of where our community is headed.
  2. By being more than just a non-profit cinema we hope to build a bigger story – one that will catch the attention of media beyond our walls. The Globe and Mail, CBC, and Global News have all run stories on what we are doing and how our community is working together. This ‘external’ media coverage helps to attract funders and patrons from beyond our borders. Nelson has a caché around the world – we hope to leverage our project’s intentions, our community’s unique  reputation and our committed member base to attract resources, financial and otherwise, to become part of our project.
  3. We are applying for grants at the regional, provincial and federal level, as well as planning discussions with large corporations and foundations that see the benefit of our project.
  4. We are networking within the Social Enterprise community and demonstrating the power of a community-operated media centre to again increase exposure of our project and attract attention of additional funders.
  5. As best we can, we will limit our calls to the general community for donations to a few targeted fundraisers per year. Like the Community Challenge to raise funds for to purchase the digital equipment, these community fundraisers will target specific items (like an Air Conditioner?) and will be of limited duration.  We do of course welcome donations any time for those interested in supporting us on their own schedule.
  6. We will give back. By keeping our rental rates low we hope to keep the Civic as an accessible resource for our entire community to use for their own fundraising efforts. While we generally keep revenue from concession sales, renters can set their own ticket pricing and present a fundraiser under their own banner. Beyond showing movies, we offer over 300 seats, a full stage, surround sound system and lobby for whatever theatre event you can think of.


Get Involved

How can I help?

First, buy a membership! Encourage your friends to buy memberships too. Funding agencies look at the number of members to gauge how popular our project is – currently we have over 2200 active members!

You can also:

  • Donate money. We have a substantial fundraising hill to climb and all donations help. Be a part of Nelson’s new Cultural Media Centre. The sooner we can raise the money the sooner The Civic can have the flexibility needed to serve our community. All donations made through our website are eligible for tax receipts.
  • Sign up for the newsletter, so we can let you know about opportunities to volunteer or weigh in with your good ideas
  • Sign up to volunteer. Volunteer opportunities exist now in the membership drive and in other committees, and will multiply exponentially when we receive approval.
  • Donate your services: In-kind donations of services will also help us reach our goal! Nelson is fortunate to have artisans, contractors, designers, programmers and more. Help from our community will be what makes our theatre great!


How can I contribute to this great project?

Make a Donation

We graciously accept donations of any amount. All donations are eligible for tax receipts if processed through the City of Nelson. Donations can be made online through the City of Nelson’s website, or can be dropped off at the theatre.  If paying by cheque and a tax receipt is desired, please make your cheque out to “The City of Nelson” and earmark it (memo field) to NCTS.

Tax receipts will be mailed to you by the City once your donation has been processed.


If you prefer, you can donate some of your time. Weekly we use volunteer ushers, and our indie-Thursday films are entirely run by volunteers (we use paid staff on other nights).  We also need help in fundraising, website development, and marketing.  If interested, drop us a line to connect with our volunteer coordinator.

Spread the word

If you support our project please tell your friends! The more people know and understand what we are attempting the more successful we will be.  We advertise in the paper, on the radio, on facebook, through this website and around town but the best publicity in Nelson is word-of-mouth.



Why should you be so excited about digital theatres?

Some say digital gives you a better picture.

Some say digital gives you better sound.

All true. But we’re excited about better choices!

Our new theatre now a fully digital projection system. This means digital content. If you can show it on a TV, we can show it on our projector! 

Digital content means we can project:

  • 4k digital pictures with Dolby Surround Sound main features – no more mono sound and grainy images
  • Live From The Met” Opera performances – with no need for opera glasses
  • Live sporting events – the Stanley Cup with hundreds of friends!
  • Pay-Per-View television events – too bad we didn’t have that for the 2012 Olympics!
  • You-Tube videos – how about a video show-and-tell with some of our members?
  • Classic & foreign films – forget Hollywood!
  • Live and broadcast music events – does Shambhala have live streaming?!
  • Video Games – “Mario Cart” on a 30′ screen!?
  • Home Videos – Perhaps a private member event to share home videos?
  • Film Festivals
  • The Oscars!
  • …. and more!

To maximize the potential of our new technology we will be partnering with local groups and societies, promoters, directors, and other thought leaders to bring the screen to life.  If you can imagine it on our screen – and you can put a team together to build and promote your event – we’re here with the facility to help make it happen.

This ain’t your grandparent’s movie theatre!



What’s “Broadband” and “fibre optic” and what would you do with it?

Broadband” is a loose term used to describe a very fast connection to the internet.

Fibre Optic” is a ‘wire’ made of glass, or plastic polymer that can transmit light instead of electricity. The light flashes with the ones and zeros of digital information.

If you think of the Internet as a soda can and your internet connection as a straw, broadband is a big fat McDonalds straw. Most residential internet connections are thin cocktail straws.

Nelson has recently laid fibre optic lines throughout the city and though partnerships with Nelson Hydro and DHC Communications are rolling out mega fast internet connections to local businesses.

The Civic Theatre is investigating this opportunity. A fibre-optic internet connection would allow us to stream online content (webinars, live streaming events, youTube videos, Skype calls and more) reliably and at a higher quality than is possible with our existing connection. As well as bringing information in, a broadband fibre-optic Internet connection allows us to stream information out. Imagine our own locally produced shows “filmed in front of a live theatre audience” and broadcast out to the world.


The Business

How will re-opening the Civic Theatre benefit Nelson?

With more than 2200 members who support our theatre suggest direct benefit for anyone who enjoys watching movies and cultural events on the big screen.

In addition, a reopened Civic Theatre will revitalize evening activity downtown and provide economic spin-offs, especially to restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. Tired from a day at the ski hill? Relax with a movie and popcorn!

We look forward to working with local film enthusiasts to bring a Film Festival (or three) to Nelson. Working with our local tourism and hospitality specialists we believe Film Festivals will have a major economic impact on our region. With a broadband connection to the Internet, the Civic Theatre will break down our geographical isolation and bring the world to our doorstep – and our doorstep to the world when we broadcast our productions.

Finances aside, The Nelson Civic Theatre Society is a non-profit Social Enterprise so our primary mandate is to our community in ways beyond just the bottom line. The Civic creates a downtown, all-ages, all weather activity for our entire community. A meeting place. Our screen is now a giant digital billboard capable of showcasing new local initiatives, local events, announcements and local productions.

As seen at our Star Trek digital kick off our community loves any excuse to have fun, put on costumes, and hang with their community. The Civic Theatre offers this in droves.

Finally, the Civic Theatre restoration will once again prove that Nelson’s ambitions are not limited by our size. Like so many successful projects before us, the renovation of the Civic Theatre will create new opportunities for small business and local societies, offering multi-use digital presentation spaces, webinars, symposiums, and local productions.


How does your business plan justify the viability of 3 screens in such a small city?

Our research of other  theatres in similar size towns across BC showed us that multiple screens actually make the theatre more viable for a number of reasons, the most relevant is flexibility:

  1. Film distributors demand that some major films must be shown continuously for weeks.  In a town like Nelson this creates “stale” programming and empty seats after the first few days of release. Remember Titanic? It had to be played for 7 weeks!
  2. Nelson may be small, but our tastes are eclectic and diverse. Multiple screens allow us to show more variety of films simultaneously, i.e. a family film and an art-house film in the two 100 seat theatres and this week’s blockbuster (or perhaps a live music event!) in the 220 seat theatre (with a stage!)
  3. Multiple films means more selection which translates to more bums in seats, more concession sales and higher revenues.  In fact, our research showed a three-screen theatre generally generates three-times the revenue.  We examined a number of B.C. cities, bigger and smaller than Nelson, and this was very consistent.
  4. Currently the big film distributors insist that their films play at least Friday, Saturday, Tuesday. To present a live music event on Saturday night means the distributors won’t send us a film – no movies for the entire weekend. Lost revenue from the entire weekend means a Saturday rental would need to be very expensive.  Multiple screens will allow the main theatre to go “dark” for a night or two while films continue to be shown in the smaller theatres.
  5. This level of flexibility also allows us to rent out the three theatres to other local groups for their own fundraisers and private events, increasing the utilization of our facility.

Finally, our market research indicates that including Nelson and the surrounding catchment area contains over a little over 26,000 people – not a small city when we look just outside our borders.


Is it true that movie theatres are becoming obsolete?

According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), there has been slow but steady growth in box office revenues since 1980. Numbers are up 6% in 2012 compared to 2011 and 12% up from five years ago.

Our research into Canadian independent theatres, particularly in BC, indicates that they are thriving in communities of similar size to Nelson. The big screen experience cannot be replicated anywhere else. Have you caught a horror movie at the Civic? 300 frightened movie watchers can’t be replicated in your living room.  Comedies? The laughter becomes infectious!


The Theatre

Wouldn’t three theatres mean smaller audiences in each?

Not according to industry studies we’re looked at. Three screens more choices.  Imagine on one weekend we could simultaneously play a movie for kids, a french film for our francophone community, and Superman 19 – or perhaps a local live band performance – all at the same time.

In other words, three screens means three different films or events that can be aimed at completely different audiences.

Our feasibility study showed a total resident market of over 26,000 people in our region. With two 100-seat theatres and one 250-seat theatre, that’s only 1.7% of our community needed each night to fill the place!

The increased flexibility helps us fulfil member movie requests, allows us to host special events and live acts on weekends, and offers the two smaller theatres for private birthday parties etc. As long as we’re doing our jobs correctly, that means a wider range of choices which will attract a wider range of patrons.

Here’s another great example: If a movie comes out that we know will sell out on opening night, like The Hobbit, we can play the film in all three theatres simultaneously. Perhaps one theatre would be for families with young children, another theatre could be licensed (adults only of course) while the large front theatre could be for anyone else! On the second night the movie might be “moved down” to just one theatre while we bring in two new films in the other theatres.

It’s all very exciting.


How does three screens get us around distributor restrictions?

First, what are distributor restrictions?

For major Hollywood films there are really only 6 distributors (“The Big 6”) who, as you can imagine, have the power to dictate some pretty silly rules. Especially for small theatres in small towns. An example: back in 1997 The Civic was forced to play Titanic for 6 weeks!

Distributors dictate when we can play their films, how long we must to play them, if we’re allowed to “split” the screen (i.e. one movie at 7pm and a different one at 9:30pm) and even how many seconds into the end credits we have to wait before bringing up the house lights! Silly. Smaller independent films have less restrictions but very few films have none.

So, will three screens get us around distributor restrictions?

Nope. Uh uh. No way. Nada.

The restrictions will still be there, but with three screens, while Titanic 2 is droning on in it’s fifth week (in our smallest theatre of course!) we can still bring new films and events in to our other two theatres.

Freedom. Kind of.


What is your timeline?

The sooner the better.

As soon as we can raise the money to create three theatres the sooner The Civic can reach its full potential.

That said, our projected timelines are:

  • Spring 2014: Concession upgrade
  • By summer 2014: Install an air conditioner in the main theatre
  • Early 2015: Build theatres 2 & 3, dependent entirely on the success of our fundraising
  • 2016: Upgrade Theatre 1, adding a proper lighting and sound booth, new curtains, video recording equipment and better lighting.


How is the Civic Theatre different from other cinemas?


More than anything, the Civic Theatre’s mandate, NCTS’s mandate, is to give back to our community, to enrich our community, to entertain our community.

The Civic Theatre is an independant theatre. Many cinemas today are owned by large corporate Ciniplex Entertainment who now own the Cineplex, Famous Players, Galaxy, and SilverCity chains. The Civic theatre is owner-operated as NCTS is the owner and this allows us to cater our programming, special events, ticket pricing and more to suit our community as best we can.

As with any cinema that shows major Hollywood releases, the “The Big 6” film distributors have immense influence over our programming schedule, especially as a single-screen. While we must work within their restrictions (or risk being denied major films) by showing films a few weeks late (or off “the break”) we increase our programming flexibility to better meet the eclectic interests of Nelson and our surrounding communities.

As a member-driven society, NCTS hopes the Civic Theatre will be a shining example of what a modern digital theatre can offer to the community that owns it.


What’s a “Cultural Media Centre” vs. a Cinema?


Cinema plays movies, sells popcorn, and sends you on your way.

A Cultural Media Centre:

  • Plays movies
  • Connects our community
  • Is available for rental to local societies, businesses and community members
  • Re-invests profits in to our community
  • Hosts community enriching webinars, social events, and presentations
  • Works closely with the Capitol Theatre
  • Leverages the technology of a cinema to enhance the culture of our community
  • Is built by and for our community


What condition is the theatre in?

As of December 2013:

  • 306 high-back, cup-holding, clean blue seats have been installed.
  • Our new projector and 7.1 sound system has been ranked the best in the Kootenays
  • We are presenting new films every week
  • Our stage has been re-rigged to confirm the fly system is in full working order (allowing the screen, speakers and curtains to be lifted above the stage)
  • Our concession and lobby has been cleaned up and is waiting for a renovation in the new year
  • Our washrooms have been cleaned and fixed up and await a full renovation in 2015
  • Our staff and volunteers are trained, friendly, and often in costume


Where can I find out more about the plans of NCTS?

Right here! www.civictheatre.ca, where you can read our proposal, learn about our vision, meet our board of directors, subscribe to our newsletter, take an online poll, and buy a membership!


Tickets and Events

How can I get tickets?

Tickets can be obtained at our box office, 30 minutes before showtime, and on our website, civictheatre.ca.

Because we are mainly a volunteer run organization we do not (yet) keep regular box office hours.

Advanced tickets can be purchased for all movies and most events about 1 week before showtime. Watch our homepage for links to tickets and our events calendar for upcoming movies. We limit advanced tickets to approximately 150 to ensure we have plenty left for those choosing to line up. Advanced ticket sales close 1 hour before showtime. All advanced ticket holders can skip the line up.

Our box office opens 30 minutes before showtimes. We ensure at least 150 tickets are available for purchase at the door plus any remaining advanced tickets.

Are you a member? Remember to bring your membership card to receive your member discount on ticket prices.

Ticket prices can be seen here.


I bought my ticket online – now what?

You should receive a confirmation email from PayPal once your purchase has gone through.

We recommend you print this confirmation out (or bring it on your smartphone) to show us at the door as proof of payment.

When arriving at the theatre, skip the line up and come through the doors to the Advanced Ticket Holder table where one of our volunteers will check your printed receipt and let you in.  We try to have a backup list of printed names, but bringing your receipt will prevent any confusion.


Do I need to be a member to attend movies?


We are inclusive, welcoming, and open to all.

Members receive discounts to movie tickets, updates on special events, votes at our annual general meetings, can become board members, and of course contribute to the health of our non-profit society. Funding agencies request our membership count (never our member’s contact information!) to gauge how popular and beneficial our society is to our town. With over 20% of our population as members it’s clear that the Civic Theatre is what people want.

As a non-member you are welcome to any movie event (except our free members-only monthly movie), welcome to volunteer with us, and of course welcome to donate! We hope you will enjoy our theatre and consider becoming a member to reap all the great benefits.


Why do you show some movies a few weeks after they open nation wide?

Our business is at the mercy of a handful of film distributors.

Most major blockbuster Hollywood films are distributed by a handful of major media companies. These companies maximize profits by controlling the release of films with an iron fist.

For a town and theatre of our size that can be, well, problematic.

The closer a film is played to the “break” (national release date) the higher percentage of box office fees we have to send them (up to 65%!), and the tougher the restrictions are that we have to follow. These film distributors often insist that a new high-budget feature film be the only film on our screen for a week or longer. For a small, eclectic town like Nelson that means lots of empty seats. Remember Titanic? They insisted that play for seven weeks!

As a film gets ‘older’ (a week to three weeks after national release) the distributors relax their demands and allow more flexibility.

To play our indie-Thursdays and keep Mondays and Wednesdays available for rentals we bring most films in two- to three-weeks after national release. For this reason, you could see some of our films before we screen them – but why would you?  We’ll get the film eventually, and we’ll play other great features in the same week!

Occasionally we find films we expect will be popular enough to play all week long (like Hunger Games or  The Hobbit) and we’ll do our best to get them first. Keep an eye on our events page to see what we are bringing in.