Langley entertainer helps Clova Theatre go out with a bang

The Clova Theatre is going to run a cult classic on its last Friday night at 9:30 p.m.− the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Fitting, due to the cult classic nature of the theatre itself.

Opened in 1947 with the movie, Dead Reckoning, the independently-run Clova has gone through a number of lives in downtown Cloverdale. 

Loyal visitors to the theatre are sad to lose the single-screen throw-back cinema, including Langley resident Alyssa Nielsen, a member of ABRA Cadabra, the Abba tribute band and owner of As You Wish Princess Parties.

“I’m really sad that we’re losing it,” said Nielsen of the theatre. “It’s been a gift.”

Crossridge Church announced its ownership of the Clova’s building earlier this year and lead pastor Lee Francois noted the intention is to use the space as a community venue when not in use for church events. 

The Clova has shared the building with Crossridge Church for the past three years.

Clova owner and operator Craig Burghardt demonstrated a commitment to his business and his patrons, according to Nielsen.

“Every time you got a ticket at the Clova, you got a ballot to get free movies for a year at the Clova,” she said of some of the unique ways the theatre captured her heart.

“Once I had kids, I started bringing them to the Clova and my daughter said, as I was explaining this [the closure] to her, ‘I’m sad the Clova’s closing Mommy’, she’s eight.”

Nelson noted that even at age eight and 11, her children understood the value of the unique cinema. 

Burghardt ran the theatre for 17 years, but struggled for the past six to secure a long-term lease agreement with the owners. Attempts to raise money for a digital projector upgrade were unsuccessful. 

“I did just bring them [my kids to the Clova] recently,” Nielsen said. “The movie was sold out, and Craig was giving out free popcorn certificates to everyone who couldn’t get in. I don’t remember a multiplex ever doing that. It was just so classy.”

Nielsen also recalls a long ago time before the seats at the Clova were replaced.

“I remember it was standard issue to bring your own pillow,” she said. 

Reminiscing aside, and despite her sadness to see the Clova close, Nielsen is excited to be part of the ABRA Cadabra show for the closing tribute to the theatre this weekend.

“I feel kind of honoured that I get to do it,” she noted. “It’s an all ages show, so it’s nice that everyone gets to enjoy it. There’s no question people will be up dancing in the aisles. It’s a really dynamic show.”

The final weekend events begin with the Rocky Horror Picture Show at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, ABRA Cadabra at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and a number of activities on Sunday including a scavenger hunt and auction.

The last movie to be shown at the Clova will follow the auction on Sunday and will be free for everyone who wants to attend. In full-circle fashion, it will be Dead Reckoning, 67 years after it opened the iconic theatre.

– With files from Surrey Now

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