The Okanagan Screen Arts Society is doing what it can to save Vernon’s historic theatre.
A GoFundMe campaign was started Dec. 11 to help keep Vernon’s Towne Cinema on 30th Avenue, a movie fixture on the city’s main street since 1938.
“We are now facing the prospect of losing this historic venue and an important economic anchor for the downtown core,” wrote campaign organizer Christopher John. “Many of our residents have fond memories of this theatre going back more than 90 years (building opened in 1929 as a dance hall) as it has been a mainstay of our downtown core.
“We want to make sure that future generations can share those memories to connect our past and future.”
John said the cinema’s current owner is ready to retire and has offered to hand over the keys of the theatre to the Okanagan Screen Arts Society, along with donating the equipment for the organization to run it.
“He has a strong desire to see the venue remain a vibrant community-run arts and entertainment amenity, and has been working hard during the current (COVID) shutdown to make it better.”
The owner has been replacing the old theatre seats with new ones during the shutdown, and gave away the old seats to interested community members for free.
“It became really clear what a valued and important piece of Vernon history it is, but we don’t want to save it just because of its long history… we want to save it because of the potential future it can have making new memories for current and future residents,” said John.
In order for the Okanagan Screen Arts Society to be able to take advantage of this remarkable one-time opportunity to save the theatre, they are looking for help and support. The Society is entirely volunteer-run and operated, and has been hosting successful weekly arts events for several years, bringing approximately 11,000 audience members to enjoy the downtown core each year.
Through this GoFundMe campaign as well as other corporate and private donations and sponsorships the society is hoping to raise at least $75,000 from the community between individual donations and corporate sponsorships.
“We have raised significant funds within the organization and from public grants, but there are some large renovations/upgrades we will be looking to complete to the venue,” said John.
Campaign money will be used to keep providing arts opportunities and expand on them; renovations including making the venue accessible for those with mobility challenges by adding a ramp and power doors; rebuilding the original stage for small, live performances.
As of Sunday, $750 has been raised with a goal of reaching $50,000.
If you would like any more detailed information, please contact through the Okanagan Screen Arts Society website.