One of Powell River’s most recognized landmarks is changing hands. On October 1, Friends of the Historic Patricia Theatre Society signed an agreement to buy the Patricia Theatre from the Patricia Entertainment Company for $550,000.
The society has until May 4, 2021, to complete the sale. During this time, it will be fundraising to secure the money to complete the purchase and preserve the notable Townsite building, according to society member Gary Shilling.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” he said. “We have to raise a whole pile of money to not only buy the theatre but also maintain it.”
On Monday, the Friends of Film Society of Powell River board agreed to support the Friends of the Historic Patricia Theatre Society in the purchase of the theatre. The membership of the Friends of Film will vote on it at the upcoming annual general meeting on November 18.
The Patricia has been owned and operated by Ann Nelson and her son Brian Nelson since 2003. They will remain on in their capacities as the theatre’s administrator and technical director for the foreseeable future.
“The idea is that over time the society will take a more active role in the theatre and hopefully set up some kind of transition plan so Ann and Brian can both share their huge amounts of knowledge with new people,” said Shilling.
Selling the theatre to a charitable organization was the best way forward, according to Nelson.
“Our analysis of this, working with our own lawyers and accountants, is it needs to be owned by a charitable non-profit and operated by the community for the community,” she said. Some positions at the theatre will need to be held by professionals, but many of the roles and functions can be taken over on a volunteer basis, which will help keep the theatre sustainable, she said.
“This is what Brian and I have wanted for years, to get to a point where [The Patricia] was sustainable, viable and possible to have the community acquire it. It’s the fulfillment of our dream and none of it was easy.”
Founded in 1913, the Patricia is the longest running theatre in Canada. It began in a tent and was moved to its current location at 5848 Ash Avenue in 1928.
“The building is 90 years old now; we want to keep it going another 90 years,” said Shilling.
This will involve numerous restorations, chief among them, roof repairs.
“We have a five-year list of upgrades,” he added. “Everything from the heating, the electrical, to things the community will like, like new seats.”
Having the town actively involved in the preservation of the theatre is something Powell River can be proud of, according to Nelson.
“Not every community has the communication and commitment to each other that we do,” she said. “A lot of places have lost their neighbourhood theatres, community halls and other things that have been important in their history because there was no real way to communicate and to share the process, and we’ve got that.”