Opinion

COLUMN: Closing out the Clova

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The Clova theatre, an iconic institution in Cloverdale, has a limited lifespan as a standalone movie theatre.

The building has been bought by Crossridge Community Church and will become its home. The church has been using the facilities for Sunday services for several years. There will still be opportunities for community use of the facility, the new owners say, but it will no longer be a movie theatre.

The Clova is the last of Surrey’s original group of theatres and drive-ins. At one time there were three similar theatres – the Clova, Cameo in Whalley and Park in White Rock. The Cameo building still exists, but is not easily recognizable. The Park is long gone.

There were also three drive-ins – the Westminster near the Pattullo Bridge, the Surrey Drive-In on King George Highway in Newton and the Hillcrest in Clayton. All are now gone, although the last operators of the Hillcrest now operate a drive-in in Aldergrove, the last such operation in the Lower Mainland.

My memories of the Clova go back a long way. The first movie I ever saw was there, when I was about four. As a child and teen, I often enjoyed the Saturday matinees, and I have continued to go there on occasion.

For many years, the theatre was managed by Nora Smith, a well-known Cloverdale resident. For some years, it was part of the Odeon chain, which eventually closed the doors. For a short time, it served as a venue for live theatre. In 1992, it went back to its roots as a movie theatre.

Current operator Craig Burghardt has run the business for 17 years, and has been challenged with the fact that many new movies are no longer being issued in film format. The theatre has been raising funds to replace its old projectors, but the fundraising campaign wasn’t complete when the sale went through.

My daughter has worked there, on and off, for five years and has enjoyed  meeting the movie-goers and working with her fellow staff members, who are a tight-knit group. Her charity, which assists young people in Sierra Leone, has staged numerous fundraisers there, as have many other non-profit groups. Burghardt is very generous in helping out schools, charities and community groups. That spirit of generosity makes the theatre a unique institution.

“The church has graciously offered to let us continue running, rent-free, until such a time that film is no longer available,” Burghardt told The Cloverdale Reporter. “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.”

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.”

The theatre, which opened in 1947, is a Surrey heritage building and the new owners will have to follow heritage guidelines as they make repairs and update the building. While it’s great that it will continue to serve the community, it just won’t be the same. It’s definitely the end of an era.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

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