Client Profile: Aron Theatre Co-operative

March 23rd, 2022 by Maggie Fleming

Aron Theatre is a historical and cultural hub in Campbellford, Ontario. What started out in 1947 as a privately‑owned theatre has since transformed into a thriving non‑profit consumer co‑operative. The theatre had been declining for years and the owner was retiring. In 2009, the community came together to save the beloved theatre in a resounding testament to the efficacy of the co‑operative business model.

Russ Christianson (local resident, co‑operative developer and consultant), knew that community ownership could help revive the struggling theatre and ensure that it continued to contribute to the local economy and cultural scene. As the theatre continued to decline, Russ leapt into action and approached the community with his proposal: convert the theatre into a co‑operative.

To ensure that the business model could work in Campbellford, Russ conducted a feasibility study. The study revealed that conversion to a co‑operative model was feasible if the community could raise the necessary capital to purchase the theatre. Russ was then able to harness a grant from the Canadian Co‑operative Association, which was used to pay for the business plan and help with the membership drive. The owner of the theatre subsequently agreed to transfer the business to the co‑operative.

Next, a Board of Directors was set up and finances were arranged to fund the conversion. The initial grant from the Canadian Co‑operative Association opened the door to subsequent funding streams, including capital generated through membership fees, the sale of Aron Bonds (a total of $136,840 worth of bonds were sold!), and a vendor take‑back mortgage plan.

The theatre formally became the “Aron Theatre Co‑operative” on May 26 of 2011, and the Co‑operative, made up of more than 450 members, took ownership. It has been run by a handful of staff and a large group of enthusiastic local volunteers ever since. These volunteers do everything to ensure the theatre runs smoothly, including hosting events, performing repairs, and running the projector.

The Co‑operative has a strong set of principles and values that are used to guide the decision making of the organization. These principles and values can be found on the Co‑operative’s website: https://arontheatre.com/about-us/vision-mission-purpose-values/. In short, the Co‑operative aims to “bring people together to enjoy movies, music and other events” while incorporating the values of “honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others”.

Aron Theatre is a shining example of how successful a community co‑operative can be, and how smaller communities may execute this business model to strengthen the local economy and salvage cultural hubs for the benefit of local people.

For a more in-depth analysis of the Aron Theatre conversion, please refer to the Co‑op Convert Case Study, found here: https://www.coopconvert.ca/aron?msclkid=49ad89daa9f811eca2fde4ce0d7f6650

We at Iler Campbell are excited to see the Aron Theatre continue to thrive and evolve as a non‑profit consumer co‑operative. And very proud to have helped them on their way.

Filed in: Client Profiles, Co-operative Law, Firm News, Housing, Human Rights, Litigation, Not for Profit Law

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