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Curtains to close on the Clova Cinema

Cloverdale's beloved single screen movie house announces it will close by the end of summer, now that the building has sold.
The Clova Cinema is an iconic Art Deco-style theatre on historic 176 Street.

The operator of the Clova Cinema announced Monday the family-run movie house will close, despite a push to raise money to convert to a digital projection system.

The building has been sold, and the new owners have told Clova Cinema operator Craig Burghardt "their plans for the building are not conducive to us running as a movie theatre."

For their many loyal patrons and for movie fans who cling to the celluloid age, it's devastating news.

An Art Deco-style gem on Main Street Cloverdale, the Clova theatre opened in 1947, and, apart from a decade-plus where the silver screen was silent until a re-boot as the Clova Cinema in 1992, has been thrilling successive generations of movie fans. Burghardt, a Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary grad, has been operating the Clova along with a tightly-knit crew known as the Clovamily since 1996.

"It has been a wonderful and joyous 17 plus years, with many memories, thanks to all of you supportive patrons," a newsletter sent to subscribers March 10 read. "Sometime this year, the curtain will draw and the show will end for good."

The building, located at 5732 176 Street in Surrey, changed hands over the weekend. Representatives from Crossridge Church, the building's new owner, met with Burghardt last week.

For now, the Clova is still able to obtain movies on 35-mm film.

"The church has graciously offered to let us continue running, rent-free, until such a time that film is no longer available," Burghardt said. "We plan to play as many movies we can get, and we hope to see as many of you before our doors close."

He estimates the last show will be near the end of summer.

"With our remaining time, we plan to 'go out with a bang.'"

The theatre – a favourite with local families and movie buffs from across the Lower Mainland – will continue to plan events, and "continue to be a giant part of this community."

"In fact, my first thought was for the community," Burghardt said, referring to the Clova's time-honoured practice of renting the theatre out to non-profits for charity screenings and local fundraisers.

"We help so many groups fundraise, and it will be disappointing that we can't do that anymore."

Burghardt ended his message to patrons on a note of optimism. "We're still here, for awhile, and hope to cram in as many good memories as possible. And hopefully have some exciting news about a new adventure. Stay tuned."

Last week, patrons learned that a deal was imminent to sell the Clova Cinema building, listed on the City's Heritage Register, to Crossridge Church, a religious group that's been leasing the auditorium for Sunday services for the past few years.

In buying the building, Crossridge Church agrees to make repairs and improvements as a condition of the sale of the heritage property, the real estate agent acting on behalf of the church told The Cloverdale Reporter last week.

"We do have to do updates," Bernie Scholtz of Homelife Realty said, explaining work is needed on both the building's interior and exterior. "It's been neglected over the years."

Now that the sale is complete, the next step will be to work out a Heritage Revitalization Agreement with the City of Surrey, which wants to see the Clova restored and preserved as a heritage building.

A recent building inspection revealed that the Clova needs a new roof and will need repairs to the front canopy. Water damage inside means repairs are in store for the auditorium as well.

The sale now concluded, there's nothing to prevent the operation of the cinema on the short term. The auditorium will only be used by the church on Sundays, Scholz said.

"They do want to make it available to the community" as a theatre on a not-for-profit basis for performances and special movie screenings, he said.

"We're going to keep it as a Clova theatre."

The news that the lights will dim at the Clova Cinema comes despite an inventive campaign to raise money for an expensive digital conversion that would be necessary to secure new films, which are increasingly available only on a digital format as the sun sets on the 35-mm film industry.

Some $15,000 had been raised to that end, through various creative fundraising drives, from an 'Amazing Race'-style scavenger hunt to a live Christmas pageant.

A new digital projector would have breathed new life into the cinema, but Burghardt was concerned about taking on a major liability without any long-term assurances from the building's owner, #9 Holdings.

"What many of you don't know is that raising money was only half of the problem," Burghardt said. "We made several attempts to secure a mutually agreeable long-term lease with the owners, which we felt was important to have before spending $60,000-plus on a new projector. I say attempts because we have failed."

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