Bringing back the theater

“It can be done” was the attitude of about 30 people that attended a meeting on Wednesday that discussed the possibility of turning the Webster City Movie Theater into a community and volunteer run establishment.

Webster City Chamber of Commerce Director Deb Brown welcomed attendees to the meeting, which was held at Webster City Middle School. She said that several parties are interested in purchasing the Theater, and two of those have expressed interest in purchasing the theater and handing the operations over to a volunteer group.

Brown gave examples of other small-town theaters that were shut down and were later reopened with the help of the community. Those theaters included one in Fargo, N.D., Hutchinson, Kan., and the Windsor Theatre in Hampton. All of those theaters were only reopened after the work of many volunteers.

“It took a very dedicated group of individuals to decide that they wanted to make a difference and save these old theaters,” Brown said.

Jim Davies, volunteer manager of the Windsor Theatre, was also on hand to answer questions and explain how his community went through the process of creating a community-run theater.

“Your community is not alone,” Davies said. “There’s been a lot of other communities that have gone through the same thing and the Windsor in Hampton is only one.”

Davies encouraged attendees to seek help from those theaters, who have tried many things to bring in revenue for their theaters. The Windsor Theatre was renovated following its closure, and now has an expanded stage where the community hosts plays. The theatre has also hosted weddings and other events.

Many marketing ideas, including discounts for certain age groups, special themed nights and other ideas were discussed. Davies said outside sources of money, including community foundations, can also help revitalize a theater.

While the event was promoted by the Chamber of Commerce, Brown said that the project will likely move forward outside of Chamber involvement as a group of volunteers is established. She also said that the City is keeping a close eye on what happens with the Theater, but is not interested in purchasing the building.