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Arts community rallies to save historic downtown Vernon cinema

Click to play video: 'Okanagan Screen Arts Society takes on Vernon Towne Centre' Okanagan Screen Arts Society takes on Vernon Towne Centre
For almost 100 years, the Vernon Towne Cinema has stood tall in downtown Vernon and has been in the centre of residents' hearts. Now it’s changing hands once again and the Okanagan Screen Arts Society is hoping to breathe fresh life into the landmark – Jan 25, 2021

The North Okanagan arts community has rallied to save a historic movie theatre in downtown Vernon after raising $100,000.

The Okanagan Screen Arts Society said its successful fundraising campaign means it will be able to make immediate, short-term repairs and required upgrades in preparation for a planned reopening of the historic cinema after Labour Day.

“The repairs include an immediate fix to the digital projector, fixing the auditorium lighting system, purchasing a new point-of-sale system, installing new seats in the theatre, and much-needed repairs to the bathrooms,” said society member Scott John.

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

The society also plans to launch a new website to sell tickets online, bringing the theatre into the digital age for the first time.

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“It also gives the society enough breathing room to go through the transition period of taking over the lease and operations of the theatre,” John said.

The non-profit society is expected to take over the lease to the building on Aug. 1 when the current theatre operator retires.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to secure further funding for other planned work.

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“The next steps on the fundraising side will be to pursue several grant opportunities to match the great support we have received from the local community, both from individuals and businesses. If successful in those grants, we will be able to take on some larger renovation projects.”

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The theatre opened in 1929 as a dance hall and 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 and has been given to the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. 

Read more: Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre features Okanagan talent in online concert series

With movie theatres opening across B.C. this week, operators are urging cinema lovers to visit once the theatre reopens its doors in September.

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“We have heard repeatedly from the public that they love the Towne, but haven’t been there in years. We hope that by expanding the programming we will be able to appeal to more local groups and demographics,” said John.

-With files from Sydney Morton 

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