Opinion

COLUMN: The Clova was a class act

Robert Jawara with two of his neighbours in Kabala, Sierra Leone last December. All benefited from funds raised at the Clova Cinema in a community drive. They received money for new roofs as a result of generosity by Surrey residents after theirs were blown off in a wind storm several years ago. - Frank Bucholtz photo
Robert Jawara with two of his neighbours in Kabala, Sierra Leone last December. All benefited from funds raised at the Clova Cinema in a community drive. They received money for new roofs as a result of generosity by Surrey residents after theirs were blown off in a wind storm several years ago.
— image credit: Frank Bucholtz photo

The closing of the Clova Cinema on Sunday, after 67 years as a community theatre, is truly the end of an era.

While the building will remain and likely be refurbished for use as a church, it will no longer be a movie theatre – or a gathering place for the community.

My memories of the Clova go back a long ways. It was the first movie theatre I ever attended as a small child and I still remember the movie – Peter Pan. I likely felt much the same as my four-year-old granddaughter has when she has seen movies there.

The Clova has been just as special a place for her as it has been for me. It was wonderful to share the Abba Cadabra experience with her Saturday night, as the excellent Abba tribute band put on a fine show to help send the theatre out in style on its final weekend.

In my teen years, the Clova was a gathering place for high school students, particularly on weekends. It was the scene of many first dates,  and Saturday afternoon matinees were very popular.

Like most community movie theatres, it did quite well until the advent of movie multiplexes in the 1970s and 1980s. They were able to show more than one movie at a time and were more economical to operate.

Frank BucholtzThe Clova had been independent for many years, but eventually became part of the Odeon chain. In the late 1980s, the chain closed it. For a short time, it served as a venue for live acts. However, it still had a future as a movie theatre and has operated as an independent for many years since then.

Craig Burghardt has operated it for the past 17 years and he epitomizes the best of a community businessman. He has brought in many innovations, such as $4 movie nights and “bring your own drink containers and popcorn bowls.”

In addition, he has made it a true gathering place. It has hosted birthday parties, fundraisers and sleepovers that likely did not involve much sleeping.

His willingness to help raise money for worthy causes, from youth and school activities to overseas charities, certainly puts him above and beyond many business people.

My daughter Christina worked at the Clova for most of the past five years, when she wasn’t in Africa with her non-profit organization, the People’s Foundation of Sierra Leone. Burghardt ensured the theatre was made available on several occasions to raise funds for the foundation, which among other activities, offers scholarships to young people to attend university in Africa.

Her first fundraiser there had a huge impact on getting the scholarship ball rolling and Clova staff members have played a big role in all the fundraisers.

Members of the community also played a big role in the Clova’s charitable activities. Several years ago, my daughter heard about five families who had the roofs of their homes blown off in a windstorm in Kabala, Sierra Leone. She decided to raise funds for new roofs. With help from a story in The Cloverdale Reporter and amazing support from members of the community who dropped by the Clova with donations, she raised enough money in three days to replace all the damaged roofs.

On a visit to Kabala in December, we were able to meet some of the people who benefited from that generosity. They are grateful not to have lost their homes and greatly appreciate all the help.

The Clova has been a great place for residents of Surrey and surrounding areas to watch great movies and it has also served as a beacon of generosity to people far away. That’s a pretty impressive record.

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

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