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Qualicum Beach Cinema Society proposes collaboration with school district

Property on Primrose Street and Fern Avenue considered
A group is proposing the old bus garage site in Qualicum Beach be used for a multi-use cinema and brew pub. An artist’s rendering shows the design from Memorial Avenue. (Submitted photo)

The Qualicum Beach Cinema Society is considering a collaboration with School District 69 (Qualicum) to facilitate a community cinema on school district-owned land.

Society member Emma Bircham said Coun. Anne Skipsey and Luke Sales, director of planning and community development, suggested a property on Primrose Street and Fern Avenue as a potential spot.

The non-profit society was formed in 2018 with the goal of establishing a community cinema to screen a mix of new releases, second-run films, foreign films, documentaries and film festivals, according to Bircham’s presentation to the April 26 school board meeting.

“Community cinema as we see it is a social and cultural hub,” she said. “It’s a meeting place. It’s not for profit, all the proceeds go back into the cinema or into the community. It’s run by paid staff, with volunteers.”

Bircham said students could benefit because a community cinema would provide educational opportunities, such as film-making workshops, learning production skills, writing and critical analysis.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach cinema group reaches fundraising goal

The cinema could also host adapted screenings for groups such as people with sensory issues, people with dementia and their caregivers and new parents and babies. Lighting and sound could be altered to suit the different groups’ needs, Bircham said.

The project would be a new building, rather than using an existing structure, Bircham said. The society has already received $30,000 in funding from Coastal Credit Union, the Town of Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) for a feasibility study.

“We’re really looking for the town to be taking the lead on this,” said Bircham. “The idea of a movie theatre is a top of the official community plan and it’s consistent with the economic development strategy for the area in terms of the entertainment gap.”

The society has been inspired by community cinemas in Nelson and Sidney.

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