Glenboro, Manitoba — Nestled on the south-end of Glenboro, Manitoba is a single-screen Art Deco-style theatre that’s been operating for over three quarters of a century. It’s a community fixture, hosting movies and drawing in patrons from nearby communities since 1941. During its early years, viewers enjoyed instant classics such as Babes in Arms (the theatre’s first film) and Casablanca.
For townsfolk, the theatre has become a passion project and labour of love. Although it has faced extinction many times over the years, time and time again it has been revitalized by dedicated volunteers and town residents. It has received several technology upgrades over the years, including the purchase of an $80,000 digital projector in 2012.
Up until that time, movies were shown via 35mm film. In a true act of love and community, a local citizen had willed a large sum of money from his estate to the town. This loyal testament to Glenboro covered a large portion of the digital projector’s cost.
Then in October 2019, Manitoba was hit with a massive ice-storm that damaged hydro lines across the province, leaving over 27,000 people without power. That number increased in the days that followed, as the weight of the ice in trees caused bows to break and pulled down even more power lines.
The theatre was hit hard by the storm and the $80,000 projector was destroyed. Insurance wouldn’t cover the claim because the theatre’s policy didn’t cover damaged by a hydro surge and Manitoba Hydro wouldn’t compensate them because it was a natural disaster. Once again, the theatre’s future was in jeopardy.
Being an important part of her upbringing and family history, Jodise Ruston, chair of the Gaiety Theatre Committee, rallied with other townsfolk to raise funds for a replacement projector and audio system. Because the theatre is publicly owned by the Glenboro Community Development Corporation, it is eligible to receive community grants and can also provide tax receipts for donations.
Having lived in Glenboro her whole life, going to the movies was both a family activity and a way to socialize with friends. As a teenager, she worked at the concession stand—a common first job for teens in the community. Her father helped run the place as well, working maintenance. When Rustin’s own kids were of age, they, too, got their first job at the Gaiety Theatre.
Local grower Rick Hamilton, also born and raised in Glenboro, nominated the theatre to receive a $2,500 grant from the Bayer Fund’s Canada’s Farmers Grow Communities program (CFGC). Hamilton is a proud local who has been farming for 40 years with a mixed operation. He recently sold his cattle and is now strictly grain. Hamilton says while he doesn’t have a personal relationship with the theatre’s committee or organization, it’s an asset to their community and it’s important that it stays open. He was inspired by all the previous initiatives that have saved the theatre from past hardships.
“We’re lucky to still have a theatre, and it’s a place everyone enjoys going. Glenboro and surrounding communities will benefit from this grant for years to come,” he says.
Even after fundraising efforts and community donations, the theatre was still a bit short on cash for the replacement projector. Fortunately, they were awarded the CFGC grant and were able to use it to cover the remaining balance with the funds.
“Receiving any grant money is fantastic, but this grant was especially wonderful because it was agriculture–based. We are a farming-based community and many of our customers have agricultural backgrounds. To be awarded this grant, and have it pay off the little bit of money we still owed, was incredible!” says Ruston.
“It’s a great program and we are very thankful that Rick Hamilton considered us in his nomination.”
The Glenboro Gaiety Theatre will be heading into its milestone 80th year this August, after overcoming many setbacks and aversities. It’s a beloved institution in the town of Glenboro, a close-knit community that collectively agrees on the popular saying: The show must go on.