By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
“Well over half the people of Imperial” turned out to view the newly remodeled Imperial Theatre in 1980, according to a Sept. 25 issue of The Imperial Republican.
That year, the theater and community center was opened Sept. 11, with a grand opening Sept. 13. It is now 30 years old.
It occupied the space of the condemned Star Theatre. The building was received by the city through a life estate of John Newman of Imperial.
The community had passed a $65,000 bond issue in November of 1979 to finance the renovation. What originally was to be a “sprucing up” turned into a remodeling project, with new chairs, a lot of paint, repaired projectors and a new exterior finish.
Bill Tinkler, then chairman of the Community Center Board, said the theater and community center “gives the youth of the community something to do.”
Other board members were Pat McNair, Toby Friemel, Hope Fitzgerald, Sandy Rufenacht, Ron Lucas and Dale Ekart.
A sold-out premier on Sept. 11, 1980 gave partygoers a wine and cheese buffet, music by the Gulizia Brothers of Omaha, a showing of “Rough Cut,” and a Cold Cuts, Comments and Cocktails party following the show.
During the grand opening two days later, free matinees were offered for children, there was a barbeque in the street and “Rough Cut” was again shown.
At that time the board presented a plaque to City Engineer Marv Athey for his work coordinating the remodeling project.
The theater was designed to be self-sustaining financially. A manager was hired, but all other labor was to be volunteer.
Thirty years later, the city is honoring everyone who has volunteered at The Imperial Theatre with free passes to movies. The passes may be picked up at the city offices any time.
“We want to show our appreciation for those who volunteered in the past,” according to Imperial Theatre board member Jill Moline.
Volunteers man the concession stand and clean the theater after the shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Chuck Bartholomew and son Tyrell are paid as projectionists, and perform many other duties at the theater.
The concession stand was renovated about five years ago. Three years ago volunteers replaced the seating, purchased with funds raised in the community and with some theatre funds.
More recently, a handicapped access door and seating area was added at the back of the theater. The air conditioning unit was also repaired.
Paid for with theatre funds, as were the above two projects, was the purchase of an electric crank used to wind film.
City Clerk/Administrator Jo Leyland explained that a movie’s film comes in six to eight small reels. It is then spliced by the Bartholomews and rolled onto the big wheels that are used by the projectors.
With an electric crank, the film no longer has to be hand wound onto the reels. The film must also be rewound back onto the smaller reels.
Current theater board members include Moline, Nancy Terryberry, Judy Gaswick, Leyland, Sherri Wheeler, Amy Leibbrandt and two students, yet to be named.