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Historic Vernon, B.C., theatre given to Okanagan Screen Arts Society

Click to play video: 'Okanagan Screen Arts Society takes on Vernon Towne Centre' Okanagan Screen Arts Society takes on Vernon Towne Centre
Okanagan Screen Arts Society takes on Vernon Towne Centre – Jan 25, 2021

The Vernon Towne Cinema is dripping with history.

“When I came up to this projection room and saw the old 35 mm camera and all the old reels on the wall, it was just a dream come true,” said Scott John, Okanagan Screen Art Society board member.

“These old main street movie palace-type theatres are a dying breed and just to keep one would be amazing.”

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The theatre opened in 1929 as a dance hall then was converted into a theatre in 1939 called the Capitol, operated by Famous Players. The theatre was also operated by Landmark Cinemas for a period of time.

According to the Vernon Towne Cinema website, the theatre was closed in the late 1990s and was reopened by Gerry Sellars as an independent second-run movie theatre. Now the cinema is changing hands it has been given to the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. 

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“The board started up about four years ago. We are a non-profit society and we started showing independent films here on Monday nights to support some of the local filmmakers here and also to bring a different genre of films into the community,” said Donna Elliot Okanagan Screen Arts Society board member.

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The board has big plans in place for the local theatre.

“This is a wonderful place to be and we hope to continue to make it a warm and welcoming place to be and we are hoping to expand what the Towne Theatre,” said Elliot.

“It’s a gathering spot for the community we would also like to see some live entertainment come in so we could highlight some of our songwriters and poets.”

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The venue could fill a much-called-for gap in entertainment venues, with the mid-sized venue capable of hosting anyone from touring comedians to local musicians with decent following and more.

However, to be able to host everyone comfortably, the first thing on the agenda is upgrading to make the cinema wheelchair-accessible then, to show films once again when public health orders are lifted.

“To have the current owner willing to donate this to us it means we have a fighting chance to keep this venue for the town,” said John.

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The society is fundraising to help shoulder some of the costs the upgrades will incur and is seeking government grants that may match what is crowdfunded.

It is hoped that the cinema will still be a fixture in downtown Vernon for years to come.

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