Royal Theatre owner/operator Lisa Milne welcomes Greater Trail residents back to a new and wondrous entertainment experience. Go online to book a ticket at royaltheatretrail.com.  Photo: Jim Bailey.

Covid intermission reels in new era for Kootenay moviehouse

COVID safe, the newly renovated Royal Theatre in Trail welcomes patrons back to the movies

At almost a century old, the Royal Theatre in downtown Trail has never looked better.

Thanks to owners/operators Lisa and Jason Milne, the grande dame of Kootenay theatres was given a major makeover during the coronavirus-forced eight-month shutdown.

“Across Canada there are a lot of theatres that won’t open back up, in the smaller towns that don’t have the support, so it’s in really dire straights right now,” explained Lisa Milne, who took over operations of the theatre in 2009, breathing new life and community interest into the aging structure.

Related read: Royal Theatre among cinemas featured in doc

See more: 15 new cases of COVID in Interior Health

Built in 1927 as a live theatre, the Royal has been a favourite destination of Greater Trail families for 93 years, with the latest and arguably most impressive version opening just two weeks ago.

“I wish I had done it a couple months ago, but we couldn’t,” Lisa told the Trail Times. “But absolutely, the response has been amazing. I have actually had people in tears when they arrived, they were just so glad to be out.

“And while they still maintain that space, that bubble, they still have that feeling of community, which is exactly what we need right now.”

The vintage lighted frames were found stored in one of the old back rooms of the 1927 original live theatre, and revived for the newly renovated Royal. Photo: Jim Bailey.

The vintage lighted frames were found stored in one of the old back rooms of the 1927 original live theatre, and revived for the newly renovated Royal. Photo: Jim Bailey.

The Milnes were incredibly proactive during the pandemic, when essentially all movie theatres had been shuttered and no films released due to COVID-19.

They seized the opportunity to undertake a major renovation, transforming an aging interior into a state-of-the-art entertainment icon.

“It wasn’t just dreamt up because of the pandemic, definitely it is something we wanted to do, but it was going to be a more phased approach.”

The Milnes installed a brand new HVAC system, expanded the lobby, and moved the washrooms.

The theatre walls were stripped to expose original brick-work three-stories high, and they traded out the old screen for a technological marvel, a curved 3D screen about the size of a football field.

“The curved screen gives you a completely immersing experience,” said Lisa. “The centre of the screen actually follows you as you’re watching the movie, and at 50-feet, we’re the largest screen outside of Calgary and Vancouver.”

But the pièces de resistance are the 146 massive, single and double, leather reclining chairs with drink holders, which replace the old-style movie seats.

“We’ve known for years that these are what people want,” said Lisa. “We have to get you out of your comfy couch at home, and come down here and have our delicious homemade popcorn, and watch the latest movie.”

She is trying creative ways to keep the business viable including adding more showings in the form of matinees, streaming Trail Smoke Eaters games, bringing in older films, and renting the theatre out to groups and organizations.

The Royal Theatre also looks forward to the day it can resume showings of the Metropolitan Operas, Bolshoi Ballets, musicals, and art house pictures.

The renovations not only realized a small dream for the Milnes, but also provided a gift for the Greater Trail community.

Not only will watching newly released films be an amazing experience, residents were also able to scoop up the old chairs and add a keepsake to their rec rooms or front porch, and the renovations also employed a number of local workers during a very difficult time.

The result speaks volumes, for it wasn’t until the screen went up and the scaffolding came down that the Milnes could truly appreciate what they had accomplished.

“We haven’t been able to turn on our equipment for seven months,” Lisa said. “The day we put some trailers on and it worked, I just stood here in tears, and said, ‘That’s exactly what ‘she’ wants to be. This is what this building was built for, and she’s in the happiest place ever right now, it’s just amazing.’”

While the pandemic continues, so will protocols within the theatre.

The Royal’s capacity is capped at 50 people per showing, so patrons are asked to purchase tickets online, or otherwise risk the show being sold out when they arrive at the box office.

In addition, the Royal is offering tours of the theatre to anyone who would like to view the new upgrades and/or ensure it is safe, sanitary, and socially distanced.

“We’re offering tours for people to just take a quick look around and see, so that they can understand when they come to the movie, how we are trying to keep them safe.”

For those attending, masks or face coverings are required in the lobby, but movie-goers can remove them once seated. Masks will be available to purchase if you do not have one.

Children under age five are not required to wear a mask.

The Royal’s interior renovation reveals the original brick work.

The Royal’s interior renovation reveals the original brick work.



sports@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Trail and District Arts Council

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some of the folks behind Angel Flight East Kootenay: Todd Weselake is a director, partner and pilot while Brent Bidston is the president and lead pilot of the not-for-profit. Pictured here with their older plane, they hope to get an upgrade for thanks to RDEK funding. (Image courtesy of Angel Flight East Kootenay)
Angel Flight secures RDEK funding for next five years

$100,000 will go to the not-for-profit each year, with the funds to be used to acquire a larger plane

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend contributed to Kaslo fatality: Avalanche Canada

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

(L-R) Michelle Malan, Administrator for the Elk Valley Seniors Housing Society (Lilac Terrace) and Stephonie Gordon, Staff Representative of the Legacy Celebration Committee, Sparwood Branch. (Contributed by EKC)
EKC gives $10k to Lilac Terrace

The funding is part of the EKC’s 70s anniversary celebrations

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Most Read