People are appreciating seeing the classics in a theatre, says Lowell Bradley. (Photo: John Boivin)

How long can Castlegar support a repertory cinema?

Cinema owners find audiences with older, obscure movies

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and Lowell Bradley is busy sweeping the foyer floor of the Castle Theatre in Castlegar.

The work never really ends at the 70-year-old movie theatre, which his family’s owned for the last 13 years.

“When we got this place, we had to do a lot of repairs, a lot of renovations, and we both had full-time jobs,” he says. “This has been mainly a hobby on the side, up until this year. But in the last year, that’s when you started to see more activity.”

What cinema lovers have seen is an ongoing, ever-changing lineup of classic and second-run movies, usually playing just for a night.

Yes, Castlegar has its own repertory cinema — the only one in the West Kootenay.

“We’ve decided to run a monthly western, a monthly classic, and a monthly musical,” he says. “We do a free family movie, usually one more animated, and we just started running a young adult/teen movie, to offer something for teens as well.”

Earlier this fall it was Casablanca, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Halloween. When the Castlegar News visited, True Grit was on the marquee, a 1960s John Wayne cowboy movie.

The move to showing second-run and classic movies is as much a function of what the theatre’s capable of at this time — the equipment needed to play first-run, blockbuster movies is just a little out of range for the cinema right now.

“As of right now, our film licence, we are limited to certain studios and film companies,” Bradley says. “But there’s a huge list, thousands of films, and we can screen those movies for one night.”

But even if they had the capability, it might not be in the theatre’s interest to be under the thumb of today’s big studios.

“If you have first-run stuff you get locked into contracts and have to show the movie so many times in so many weeks. So with our licence, you have more freedom, but it’s usually older content or you have to wait two to three months, depending on the popularity of the film.”

The second-run films come cheap enough that a small audience won’t break the bank — and the theatre can offer free family movie days, where the concession sales can cover the cost of the film and contribute to keeping the theatre open.

The theatre’s also rentable for live music performances, birthday parties, meetings and even weddings, supplementing the business income.

“So if we have a movie and five people show up, people ask, ‘How do you get by?’” says Bradley. “It’s all the other stuff.”

But can Castlegar — a city without a second-hand book store— support a repertory cinema?

“There is some culture in our town,” says Tammy Mandel, Bradley’s partner. She’s got the greatest job in Castlegar, picking movies to show at a theatre. “Our audience for those is a bit of an older, or middle-aged audience. So you kind of go with what’s working.

“Most of our movies are alternatives compared to what’s happening at the Uptown,” says Mandel, referring to the local multiplex cinema. And people seem to be happy, they thank us all the time for bringing in different content.”

Mandel admits she was never a big movie expert before she started programming, but she’s getting into it now.

“It’s definitely pretty fun. It takes a lot of time. I go to this website, and pick alternatives. I am always watching trailers and reading reviews. I like a real broad range of movies, I’m not settled on one thing.

“It’s just kind of opened up a different world of programming I had never really been into before.”

The couple is busy planning for January’s shows, and hoping to build more audience for their fare.

“It’s been good,” says Bradley. “The community has been a huge supporter, and we wouldn’t be here if this town wasn’t how they were. So it’s nice to offer back something.”

Bradley says as people get more used to the ever-changing schedule at the theatre, they expect the audience will grow — and rather than a hindrance, the ability to play second-run movies is a strength.

“It’s pretty exciting that way, the beauty of this palace is we can cater to all sorts of people, all sorts of interests, with all sorts of movies,” he says.

“And our doors are still open, so that’s a good thing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Castlegar doctor’s offices remain open for phone, video and in-person appointments

Doctors concerned people may be neglecting health concerns for fear of catching the COVID-19

BRAND NAMES: Cominco, West Kootenay Power, Granby

Consolidated Mining and Smelting (CM&S) became Cominco, then Teck-Cominco, then Teck

Castlegar hospice director says COVID-19 measures make serving the dying heartbreaking

Social distancing brings big challenges to offering support

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read