Column: Cloverdale without the Clova

Craig Burghardt poses with projectors Martha and Ethel at the Clova Cinema in Cloverdale. - File
Craig Burghardt poses with projectors Martha and Ethel at the Clova Cinema in Cloverdale.
— image credit: File

It says something about a person, how they react to bad news. For the Clova Cinema’s Craig Burghardt, who announced last week the iconic single screen will have to close, his first thoughts were how its departure will impact the residents and merchants of Cloverdale.

He’s always operated the family-owned movie house under a few simple guiding principles. One is offering an evening’s affordable entertainment for families, at prices well below what the multiplexes charge.

That’s partly why he refused to raise ticket prices simply to pay for a digital projection system – a $60,000 investment he was reluctant to make without any long-term assurances from the building’s previous owner.

Another mandate is helping out the community by renting the cinema to non profits and community groups such as school PACs and small local charities to use as fundraisers. The onus to sell tickets is on the groups, which get to keep all the proceeds for their cause.

Wander by the box office at any hour of the day and you might find the marquee lit and the lobby bustling with activity, such as a mom hustling goodie bags and birthday cake inside – for the theatre is available to rent for kid’s parties, too.

On March 10, Burghardt wrote a letter to patrons announcing the cinema’s imminent closure, now that the building has been sold to CrossRidge Church, whose long-term plans preclude the operation of the cinema.

It’s an unexpected turn of events that effectively pulls the plug on Burghardt’s dream of equipping the Clova for its much hoped-for digital sequel.

“When I heard the news, my first thought was for the community. We help so many groups fundraise, and it will be disappointing that we can’t do that anymore,” he said. The local economy is another concern. “I feel bad for the town,” he later told The Reporter, describing how the movie theatre acts as a draw, bringing people to the downtown core.

His customers might grab a bite to eat before the show, or return the following day to buy something spotted in a window the night before.

There are enough empty storefronts, he continued. Without the Clova, he fears there will be more. “That was my first thought,” he said.

He implored the wider circle of the “Clovamily” to continue patronizing his neighbouring merchants once the projector dims.

Meantime, Burghardt says the church has graciously allowed the cinema to continue, rent-free, until he can no longer get movies on film.

The Clova, he says, plans to “Go out with a bang,” organizing more events and “continue to be a giant part of this community.”

When the curtains close sometime near the end of summer, we’ll be losing more than just another small business.

We’ll be losing The Clova Cinema. And with its departure, 176 Street will lose some of its lustre, some of its magic.

Until then, save me an aisle seat.

– Jennifer Lang is the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter.

To send a letter to the editor, email editor@cloverdalereporter.com.

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