Pilot Mound’s first theatre was known as the “cosy” theatre.
It was cosy all right, and it didn’t smell like popcorn. It was over a hatchery.
That was years ago.
After 1945, Pilot Mound had the Tivoli, a fine little theatre where great movies were watched and great memories made. It was so popular for the next 65 years, volunteers kept it running even after the last private owners retired in the early 1990s.
The final credits rolled at the Tivoli in 2010, but not because no one was going to the movies anymore. The building was on its last legs. It cost too much to heat and finding 35-mm films for an aging projector rumoured to have mushrooms sprouting in it was near impossible.
But the show will go on. Locals wear T-shirts declaring Pilot Mound’s plans to “light the screen in 2015.” Well, if not this year, it will be soon.
“It’ll be next year. 2016 rhymes with screen too,” says Heather Brewster.
In the absence of a local theatre Pilot Mound has made its own fun fundraising for a new one these past five years. They’ve raised about half the $300,000 needed to equip and furnish a new theatre in town, to be housed in the Pilot Mound Recreational Complex.
All that money has come through garage sales, raffles, special dinners, and any other creative way they can imagine. The first fundraiser was the day they closed the old Tivoli. It wasn’t such a sad event, says Brewster.
“It was out with the old and in with the new,” she said.
Sharon Currie feels the same way. Having a local theatre in Pilot Mound is as important as having ball diamonds, a pool and other recreational amenities.
“The more you have in a community the more you attract people,” she said.
Those who’ve long lived here want their kids to grow up with similar memories of going to the show in town too.
“I wanted it for my children. Now I’m looking forward to having it up and running for my grandchildren.”
Plus, Pilot Mound knows movie night becomes take-your-money-out-of-town night if the show’s on somewhere else.
“If you go out of town, you’re probably going to end up buying gas there, and you’ll have a meal there, and then it’s, ‘well, I might as well buy my groceries at Walmart,’” says Brewster. “That takes a lot of money out of the economy here. But if we stay here for dinner and a movie that all stays at home.”
Hometown cinemas might have gone the way of the livery stable were it not for the community-ownership model. Community-based, volunteer-run theatres are now found across rural Manitoba in places like Deloraine, Neepawa, Reston, and Melita.
The screens stay lit wherever people want to see local theatre continue, says Bradley Peters, volunteer operations manager of Boissevain Community Theatre. Boissevain cut the ribbon in 2012 on its brand new $400,000 building that now houses both movie and performance theatre.
When their local theatre closed in 2009 the community felt it was as important as a library and skating or curling rink. The funds for the new one came from donations and local fundraising plus funds from local governments and the province.
The community’s support continues. Volunteers run the theatre, said Peters, adding they average about 130 through the doors a week. Sometimes it’s higher and sometimes it’s lower, but clearly Boissevain doesn’t stay home watching Netflix.
Pilot Mound won’t either. The Tivoli was where everyone met with their friends and neighbours over a show. It will be again.
It is definitely a different gig going to the show in your hometown, she added. “It’s a social activity, watching a movie with people that you know. I think the city can’t get quite the same kind of vibe.”