Today is Giving Tuesday - the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday that the nonprofit sector has declared a day to give to charities. I hope you will consider taking part this year by making a gift to Nelson Civic Theatre Society today.There is no marketing pitch here today. Instead, I want to give you three honest and urgent reasons to give to NCTS:
Between The Civic Theatre and The Shoebox Theatre, we have shown a total of more than 40 different and varied films since the beginning of September and have seen an average of only 16% of our seats filled - FAR less than the average of 27% capacity filled in past seasons. More than 75% of our budget depends on earned income so a drop in attendance like this is now cutting into our ability to pay our staff and operate our organization.
You might be asking why this is happening. There are actually a lot of variables that are affecting us and many other cinemas across the country in this way. Among other things, we know that people may not be back in the habit of regularly going to movies since the pandemic and that the economy is having an effect on our spending choices. Locally, we know that there are a lot of people who have been sick or are concerned about getting sick (incidentally, we still have great systems in place to mitigate this risk). All of these things are understandable, but the cumulative outcome has been that our audiences have been the smallest we have ever seen and it’s absolutely affecting our bottom line.
You may have been one of the petition signatories to reopen The Civic Theatre, or one of our original 2,500 paid members in our first year. Perhaps you have come to love The Civic since then. But I bet we can all agree that Nelson is better with films on the big screen and the smell of buttery popcorn in the lobby. Over the decade since NCTS was founded and reopened The Civic Theatre, we have worked hard to improve audiences’ experiences. When we first started screening films, they were on 35mm, we were only open four days per week, and there was no air-conditioning. Since then we’ve expanded our programming to span the full seven-day week, diversified our on-screen and community content, and we continue to find ways to improve our space and services to our membership and the community overall.
Today, our custom-built retractable screen, theatrical drape, Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound and many other technical features that we continue to add and upgrade complement our free community programming (like the upcoming Home for The Holidays on Dec 10), artists residencies, festival events, and ancillary spaces and programs like 225 Hall Street (home of Reo’s Video and The Shoebox Theatre), the Kootenay Screen-Based Industry Workers program, as well as partnerships that have led to the Rural Arts Inclusion Lab (RAIL) and the Kootenay Regional Film Commission.
Over the ten years we have been at it, we have never lost sight of our goal to entertain and educate audiences through film, and bring big ideas into our community and put big ideas out into the world. People tell us every day how much they love and appreciate The Civic Theatre and the programs and services that NCTS has built in and around it, but the truth is we have been able to do these things because of the audiences that have come through our doors. Today, we need audiences to show us some love to make everything else work. (Click here to see what’s on now and soon!)
We hear often from members and other patrons who are frustrated with long runs of commercial films on The Civic Theatre’s screen. The truth is that when we get major new film releases we have strict instructions about how often and for how long we have to play them, and sometimes the terms require no less than two or three weeks. Sometimes these longer-running films have very small audiences in the end, and yet we have to keep playing them for the contracted time.
Why bother then, you ask? Why not just show smaller releases and have more control? We call the major releases “tentpoles” - it is films like The Avengers, Star Wars, Hunger Games, James Bond, and Dune that bring in large audiences, and the income from these films subsidizes our ability to play all the other ones.
When we have three screens, we will still be able to bring in the tentpole films for their longer runs of 2-4 weeks at a time, but we can then simultaneously screen other films at the same time, satisfying more interests, and bringing in more box office and concession income at the same time.
How does this relate to our Giving Tuesday request this year? Well, in 2023 we need to turn our focus to our fundraising campaign and building project to make this vision come to life. We need our operations to be stable to have the capacity to do these things, so a better operational picture now is really important to realizing this exciting and necessary future.
In summary, because of our strong reliance on earned income through box office and concession sales, the long-term effects of the pandemic have made our current position a precarious one. If you value The Civic Theatre and the programs and services offered by NCTS, please make a gift today.
Our Giving Tuesday goal by midnight tonight is $10,000; a portion of our current fundraising goal to stabilize and prepare our operations for the future. If you have the capacity to make a larger charitable gift we will be most grateful, but gifts of any size will make a difference. PLUS, this year Canadahelps is boosting donations made before midnight tonight with a 1% match AND you’ll be automatically entered to win a $5,000 charity gift card to further support the charities and causes you care about.
Click here to give now! And from all of us at NCTS, thank you for your support of your independent community cinema. We can’t wait to see you again at the movies.
Eleanor Stacey, Executive Director, NCTS