Roll film! Pilot Mound’s brand new Tivoli Theatre is open—after what can only be described as a fundraising marathon.
“It’s just amazing. It is kind of a little surreal that it’s here now,” said Gisele Harding, a theatre board member. “Kids will have a place to come.”
On Dec. 20, board members cut the ribbon on the volunteer-run theatre, which theatre occupies a corner of the Millennium Recreation Complex. About 40 people from the community came to celebrate with them.
The original Tivoli Theatre opened in 1945. After the owners retired in the early 90’s, a volunteer board took over the still-popular theatre.
But in 2010, it was tough to get 35mm film for the projector system and the building was falling apart. That September, the theatre showed its final film – the animated flick Despicable Me – and closed the doors.
To reopen the theatre, the town of between 600 and 700 people had to raise about $385,000.
“We went from running the movie theatre to [being] a fundraising group,” said board member Heather Brewster.
Why it matters: Pilot Mound’s community leadership shows resilience when, statistically speaking, small communities are shrinking across Canada.
She recalled countless fundraisers, from chocolate “movie mice” at Valentine’s Day to a ladies’ night with an Elvis impersonator, and countless community barbeques.
“Anything we could think of to make a buck,” Brewster said. “We had so much fun.”
They got some grants, and collected a larger chunk of change when they won “Manitobaville” in 2017. The contest, by Bell Media, invites small towns to submit community projects for a chance to win $25,000.
Still, this June they were $48,000 short. The board put out a call in the community, and within about three weeks they’d raised the money.
“People really showed how much they wanted it,” said Brewster.
A young brother-sister duo even grew and sold vegetables to donate money to the theatre.
By mid-September, the board was posting pictures to Facebook of them learning how to use the new projection equipment.
Brewster and Harding said seeing trailers playing on the screen was surreal.
“You could feel your heart just go fluttering,” Harding said. “Ah! I can hear. Listen to this.”
The old theatre’s sound system could barely compete with the furnace, Brewster explained.
Board chair Sharon Currie commended her fellow members for their endurance. Most of the eleven-member board has stuck out the entire nine years, with only a couple leaving because they’d moved or passed away.
“We have a lot of strong people,” Currie said.
“We’ve had so much encouragement and support from the community and the surrounding communities,” she added.
Currie said she hopes the theatre, added to their thriving recreational complex, will encourage more people to move to, or stay in Pilot Mound.
“We want it to just be a place where people can gather together,” she said. “We’re looking at our young people, you know, allowing them a safe place for them to come and enjoy each other’s company.”