Campaign underway in Powell River to repair Patricia Theatre roof

Plans are to complete work before rainy season in the fall

Townsite’s Patricia Theatre has a case of the shingles.

The venerable old landmark has a leaking roof and a community initiative is being launched to patch it before the fall.

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Powell River Film Society executive director Gary Shilling said there is an urgent requirement to fix the roof so the asset can be protected and fundraising can take place to buy the theatre.

The society has received an estimate of $15,000 from Nelson Roofing for the repair.

Society member Terry Noreault said Rotary Club of Powell River Sunrise, of which he is president, has pledged $5,000 for the repair and efforts are underway to find the other $10,000.

Shilling said for the film society, having the Rotary club step up at the outset of the campaign is a great boost because of the respect Rotary has in the community.

Noreault said it is important to get the work done before the rainy season to prevent damage to the theatre.

Shilling said the society, which wants to purchase the Patricia Theatre, likes to refer to it as the crown jewel of Townsite. Actions have been taken to facilitate the process of assuming ownership of the theatre.

Friends of the Historic Patricia Society and Friends of Film Society of Powell River have amalgamated to become the Powell River Film Society. The purpose of the amalgamation is to fundraise to purchase the Patricia.

“We have an agreement for sale, we have a timeline and we are planning to kickoff our fundraising in the fall and raise the money to keep the Patricia Theatre going for generations to come,” said Shilling. “It’s an ambitious plan and it keeps me up at night trying to figure out how it is going to happen.”

The theatre experience is something that is increasingly difficult to maintain for a business like the Patricia Entertainment Company, he added. Running a single-screen theatre in a small town is not something Hollywood really supports; it’s a tough grind, said Shilling.

“We think [current owner and manager] Ann Nelson wants to pass it on; she has invested a lot of time, effort and money maintaining it as it is today and she wants to see it continue,” said Shilling. “The societies, when they amalgamated, made having a place to show films part of our mandate. The Patricia Theatre is the place. Fundraising to buy it is the only way to do it.”

There is strong precedent for community involvement in the Patricia Theatre. When a new digital projector was required to allow the theatre to continue screening digital motion pictures, a community campaign helped underwrite the purchase.

“We see that getting the projection system was really the first step in protecting the theatre,” said Shilling. “We would have been excluded from the first-run distribution that happens exclusively digitally now. Everything comes digitally, all the films the film festival screens come digitally as well. There’s still a 35-millimetre projector in the theatre but I don’t think it’s been run in a while.”

Noreault said some people have the idea that if the Patricia Theatre wasn’t here a commercial theatre would come into the community.

“No commercial theatre is going to be coming into a market the size of Powell River,” said Noreault.

Viability of the theatre operating as a non-profit organization is better than that of a commercial operation, said Noreault. There are foundations and provincial and federal grant opportunities available for historic buildings in the not-for-profit sector. For example, the architect who designed the Patricia is the same architect who designed Vancouver’s Stanley Theatre, which has received considerable support for its restoration.

People wishing to make donations to assist with the theatre roofing project can contact Shilling at gary@prfilmfestival.ca.

In terms of supporting the film society’s endeavours to repair and eventually purchase the theatre, the society is a charitable organization, so donations are tax deductible.

Shilling said supporting Powell River Film Society into the future will help build on the experience one doesn’t get sitting on their couch watching Netflix.

 
Copyright © Powell River Peak

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