Set against the Rocky Mountains and the stunning Columbia River in the South Kootenays, BC, is The Royal Theatre. Offering a luxury viewing experience in the remote city of Trail, The Royal has spacious recliners, laser projection, Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sound, house-made caramel popcorn and even a mini-arcade.
At the centre of this jewel in the Kootenays is Lisa Milne, who purchased the venue in 2009 and has grown it into a prize destination.
What makes The Royal Theatre unique?
We are a single-screen luxury cinema in the heart of the Kootenays. We provide a VIP experience for our movie guests every time they escape with us! Luxury recliners, 50ft screen, laser projection, Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sound and mini arcade, makes for a magical movie experience.
What sort of films do you show?
The Royal shows first run, art house and independent films. Diversity on our screen has been the key to our success.
What are The Royal Theatre’s greatest challenges?
Being a single-screen cinema, studios that demand longer than a one-week run make it terribly challenging for us to make a profit. The victims of this greedy practice are our movie-goers. Long hold times are just not feasible in rural settings on single screens, and our guests lose out when we have to pass on bringing in those movies. Having our voices heard by studio execs is the most exhausting and time consuming part of my job.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the issue of ‘clean runs’ here. Join NICE’s letter-writing campaign to support The Royal Theatre with this key issue here.
What are your favourite compliments that The Royal Theatre receives from your audience?
We are often told we are the pride of Trail. We took a run-down, dirty cinema and turned it into an awe-inspiring destination. We boast state-of-the-art equipment, friendly staff, and real butter on our popcorn! We always receive excellent guest reviews and we are so proud to create something very special in our town.
What’s a memorable film screening or event you hosted?
In 2010 we installed our first digital projector with 3D capability. We hosted an 8-day 3D festival, capping it off with a 24 hours in 3D event! We had such an outstanding turnout for all the movies. It is still talked about—years later, and we are often asked to host 24 hour movie marathons again!
What are your most popular concession items?
Our popcorn is popped fresh every day. We never re-use and always use real butter. Our movie-goers know this, and it keeps them coming back for more!
We also make our own caramel and rainbow popcorn. This is hugely popular with kids’ movies and when we attend markets with our popcorn cart!
What projects are you considering for the future?
We are always striving for the latest in the cinema landscape. How do we create a memorable, unique experience for our guests is top of mind. Whether it’s offering drive-ins, movies in the park or transforming un-used space into interactive play zones—we are always evolving.
Tell us about yourself; how did you get your start in film exhibition?
The purchase of The Royal was initially an investment opportunity. Having zero knowledge of the industry, we dove right in. We attended important conferences where we were able to network and educate ourselves on the cinema going experience.
Movies goers flocked back to her when we purchased in 2009, happy to have it locally owned and operated again. They again came back in droves after our massive 2020 renovation that has catapulted The Royal to a “next level” movie going experience. I am passionate about providing a first-class movie going experience. The charm and nostalgia the old gal has, tugs at my heart every time I see her.