Sister campaigns to save Star Cinema

Sandy Oliver has a plan to keep Sidney's beloved Star Cinema in business

Kay Wyckham and Susan Simosko snack on some of the popular popcorn at Star Cinema

Kay Wyckham and Susan Simosko snack on some of the popular popcorn at Star Cinema

The Star Cinema is more than a movie theatre. It’s an experience in small town hospitality and a hub of the community, say those seeking to save the small Sidney venue.

“It’s a very community minded theatre, thinking about the needs of people … how they can serve the community,” said Kay Wyckham, a volunteer ticket taker. “There are people who come every week, this is their social time.”

She’s among those advocating to keep the Star in business.

Until recently, Sandy Oliver owned the small theatre on Third Street with her sister Carolyn Lewis. Lewis, 67, died May 24 after a battle with cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations go toward the Canadian Cancer Society and the Save Star Cinema campaign.

“The Star is a community theatre and they’ve kept their prices low all these years and they do try to respond to the community,” said advocate Susan Simosko. “Right now we have to save the Star if we want it in our community. It serves as a cultural hub in our community. … If the place is falling apart and the rates are low, we need to give a little more.”

The campaign target is $200,000 for new digital equipment and seating in the two-theatre venue.

“People actually purchase chairs for the Star and the Star, in turn, recognizes the buyers by inscribing each chair with the names requested by the purchasers,” Simosko said.

“Some people are buying chairs in memory of people who loved the Star but who have passed away, much as you might purchase a bench in the woods to remember someone. Others are buying chairs to celebrate their grandchildren – or someone who loves Sidney but lives in a different part of the world.”

About 30 of the 300 seats in the two-theatre venue are already spoken for.

The cost is $150 for individuals or $250 for a business and then there are the star sponsorship opportunities, $500 for gold and star director for $1,000.

“I think it’s very important that Star Cinema stays in Sidney because there’s lots of people who want to enjoy a night at the movies, but they don’t like to or can’t drive downtown. The Star Cinema also caters to lots of young people which also keeps them in town,” said volunteer Margaret Frew.

“If the cinema were to close down, it would be a sad day for Sidney.”

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A community vision

Sabina Amos has a personal love of the theatre that the community itself sought. When her husband Don Amos was mayor in 1996 the council completed a community based vision for the town.

“One of the things that came out of that … was a movie theatre. There had been a movie theatre in Sidney up until 1974, and so when it closed there was a sense of loss,” she explained. Don began to look around and discovered Sandy Oliver running a small cinema on Salt Spring Island and looking to open a community theatre in Sidney. He suggested the former bingo hall and bowling alley where Star Cinema now sits on Third Street.

“It had been sitting empty for some time,” Sabina said. “As they say, the rest is history.”

The venue quickly became an integral part of the mom and pop feel of downtown Sidney.

“For me the Star Cinema’s been a huge part of what has given Sidney that sense of community,” Sabina said. “It would be very sad to lose it and to lose that sense of community.

“If you talk to anyone that knows the sisters, they’ll tell you that they are that small-town, interested in what’s going on in the community [kind of] people. It would break my heart to see it go.”