The lights will come on again!


The ByTowne is now closed. But there's good news!

After the pandemic has been brought under control,
new management will take over the space and the ByTowne will re-open.

It may take a while for pandemic restrictions to be eased enough
that a feasible number of patrons can be allowed to watch a movie again,
but the new owners are working towards that day.

To stay informed about developments, subscribe to our free e-newsletter.
There's a sign-up box on our home page.

About Us

MembershipAdvertising | Gift Vouchers | Using VouchersAccessibility | History


If you come to more than 3 movies per year, you can save money with a ByTowne Membership.

what our membership card looks likeMembership costs $15.00 (half price for seniors and full-time students) and lasts for a full 12 months from the date of purchase. When you show your Membership card, you are entitled to the Member's price of $9.50 for any of our regular film presentations (the exceptions are a few specially priced shows and charity fundraiser screenings, always clearly marked on the film description page of the site).

You can buy your Membership directly from the cashier anytime you come to the cinema. It becomes effective immediately, so you start saving right away.

  • An $15 investment now saves you $4 on each film for 12 months
  • Members also receive 10% off all purchases at the snack bar when they show their Membership card
  • You MUST show your signed Membership card to the usher when presenting a Member ticket. Sorry, no exceptions.
  • Lost or stolen Membership cards cannot be replaced.

Gift Vouchers

We offer Gift Vouchers which come in three different forms. You can mix and match them depending on who the lucky recipient is, and add them up to whatever value suits you.

1. "Admit One Member" Vouchers ($9.50 each). Buy one or buy a gazillion, depending on how much love you want to demonstrate. Each Voucher is worth one admission for a ByTowne Member, except to specially priced events. Note that the vouchers have a time-saving feature: the bearer can show his/her Membership to the usher, hand over the Voucher and waltz right in without having to visit the cashier. 

Vouchers are a smart way to see movies2. "Admit One Non-Member" Voucher ($13.50 each). Same as above, with the same benefit of skipping the cashier, but these can be used by anyone at any regularly priced screening at the ByTowne. 

3. Gift Membership Voucher ($15) A Membership to the ByTowne is the gift that keeps on giving, because the lucky recipient will save $4 on every movie she or he sees for a year. And there's no risk that the Membership Voucher will be redundant, even if the recipient is already a Member. A Gift Membership Voucher doesn't bear an expiry date, so if your friend is already a Member, they hold on to your gift until their old Membership expires. To activate the new Membership, she or he simply visits the cashier and it becomes valid for a full 12 months from that day (not from the day you purchased the gift).

ByTowne Vouchers do not have expiry dates. Even if our prices change someday, the Vouchers will still be worth their face value.

So, add up your Voucher needs (example: 1 Membership @ $15 and 4 Member Vouchers @ $9.50 = $53) and you're ready to make your purchase. All taxes are included, just like our admission prices.

To buy in person, come by at any time that the cinema is open to show movies (although you may want to check our schedule to avoid the busy times just before a movie starts).

To buy by mail, add up your purchase then add $2.00 for postage and handling, write a cheque payable to ByTowne Cinema (all taxes are already included) and send it to us at 325 Rideau St., Ottawa ON K1N 5Y4. You can also e-transfer the funds to We'll mail the Vouchers back to you. If you prefer, or if time is a big factor, let us know the address of the lucky recipient, and we'll send the Vouchers directly to him or her.

Thanks for giving the gift of cinema!

Using Vouchers

Smart ByTowne Members can buy Gift Vouchers for themselves. We don't mind! Save up your shekels and buy as many Admit One Member Vouchers as you want (@ $9.50 each).

Next time you come to the cinema, join the Ticket Holders line (if there's still another movie inside the cinema) or go straight to the usher (if we're letting the show in). Show your Membership to the usher and hand over one of the vouchers, and you're in. There's no need to visit the cashier, which can be a big time-saver. Vouchers won't work for Benefit screenings or special events for which the Members' price is higher than $9.50, but otherwise they're very handy.

Note that Vouchers do not guarantee admission. If the show sells out all 50 seats before you arrive, well, sorry, it's sold out. But you can reserve your seat by using our online booking feature: see How To Buy Tickets Online.

You can also buy pre-paid Vouchers for Non-Members, but they work best as gifts. (If you come often enough to use Vouchers, you probably should become a Member.)

The ByTowne auditorium and washrooms are fully accessible for patrons in wheelchairs. Both washrooms have accessible stalls, too. The only issue is that the doors to the men's room are the old 30" standard width, and there's no automated door opener. There's always someone nearby to open the door for you, though.

When you first arrive, ask our usher about the reserved spaces for wheelchairs. There are several different locations you can choose from.

Symbol to signify assistance for hearing impaired personsFor hard-of-hearing patrons, the ByTowne has an FM Audio Assist system. Receivers are available free of charge from the candy bar staff. The receiver clips on your belt or waistband and relays the sound to your ears via an earphone (you can use the one supplied, or for a better fit, bring your own earbuds; anything with a standard 3.5mm mini stereo plug will work). Patrons who have a hearing aid equipped with a T-coil should ask us for an induction loop (it fits easily around your neck) that sends the sound to your hearing aid.


Yup, the ByTowne is so old that it might be even considered "olde" by some young whippersnappers. 

Local entrepreneur Hyman Berlin built the Nelson cinema through the fall and winter of 1946, and opened the doors on February 10th, 1947. According to the full page ad in the Ottawa Citizen which trumpeted the grand opening of the Nelson, the cinema had all the modern conveniences, including an air conditioning system and the very best in 'terrazzo' flooring. 
The first film was something called "Johnny Frenchman" and admission was 25 cents. Of course, if you wished to be seated in the 'loge' (balcony), where you could smoke, admission was steeper at 35 cents. 
There were 980 seats in the Nelson when it opened its doors, but they must not have been filled to capacity: "Johnny Frenchman" closed in less than two weeks, and hasn't been heard of since. 
Photo of ByTowne by Jean LapointeOnly a few years after opening, Mr. Berlin leased the building to the Famous Players chain of cinemas, an arrangement which lasted nearly forty years. A concession stand was put in sometime during the 1950s, and was later moved to its present location. In the early '60s, the Nelson was improved, with a bigger screen and 70mm projection facilities. The seats were replaced too, with seating reduced to about 790. 
With the new equipment, the Nelson became home to many long-running film 'events'. "The Sound Of Music" enjoyed a very long tenure in 1965, followed by other grand musicals like "Funny Girl". Patrons might recall seeing "El Cid", "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "The Exorcist" here for the first time. Later, the cinema played host to big box-office hits like "Jaws", "Raiders Of The Lost Ark", "Star Trek" and some of their respective sequels.
In 1988, with Famous Players no longer wanting to run single-screen cinemas, they moved out and the Berlin family sold the building. It became the ByTowne, continuing an independent programming policy that had been started at the Towne Cinema (on Beechwood Ave.) back in 1973. Since then, the ByTowne has improved the screen and projection, completely renovated the washrooms and installed new seats with improved legroom (which brought capacity down to its current 650 seats). Digital projection was installed in October 2011.
For more information on the early years of the Nelson, we highly recommend the book A Theatre Near You by Alain Miguelez, which details all of Ottawa's cinematical (and theatrical) history.

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