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At the movies

By Staff | May 1, 2009

DJ Anderson has visions of restoring the old movie theater to its former glory – it’s just going to take him a while to get there.

DJ and his wife, Melissa, recently purchased the Centre Cinema after moving back to Rugby last month.

They made the move back home to help out with Melissa’s dad, Daryl Opstedal, whose health is failing. For more than 10 years, the couple had been living in Starbuck, Minn. DJ was working as a licensed funeral home director and Melissa in the business office of a medical facility.

DJ said the move back home was a relatively easy decision despite leaving two successful careers behind.

“People think I’m nuts, and I probably am,” DJ joked. “But my love of Rugby won out. Owning a business in Rugby means something special to me. We didn’t buy it because it would make us a fortune. We bought it to be part of the Rugby community.”

DJ’s family started Anderson Funeral home nearly 100 years ago, and the library is dedicated to his great-grandfather. His family has a long history of civic and community involvement.

“We both have family here. Mine goes back four generations,” he said. “I’ve lived other places, but this has always been home.”

In fact, the theatre is also a family business, in a way. DJ’s mother, Lu Miller, is married to Ted Miller. The couple managed the Centre Cinema for more than 20 years before DJ purchased the business from Ted’s daughter and son-in-law, Eric and Penny Nostdahl of Bottineau. Eric’s brother Bob and Paulette Nostahl also of Bottineau, and Doug Hamnes of Minot were also part owners in the business.

An update was made to the film reel equipment in 2003. But other than that, the last major technological updates at the theater took place in 1957. DJ hopes he can make some more updates in the near future. One area to focus on first is improving the sound system.

“I know what the place is going to look like in 20 years – it’s just going to take me a while and some creative fundraising to get there,” he explained.

He has dreams of restoring the building to its former glory. For now, he’s focusing on structural issues, repair and maintenance. He and Melissa have already done a good deal of general cleaning and painting. They want to preserve the art deco theme. They are also looking repair and maintenance. He and Melissa have already done a good deal of general cleaning and painting. They want to preserve the art deco theme. They are also looking into returning the outside of the building to the original porcelain tile front.

“Part of what excites me about this venture is the opportunities for the business and the possibilities for us to hold events other than showing the movie each weekend,” DJ explained.

He noted that many years ago the theater hosted live acts such as Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones, for example. DJ is exploring different options and ideas, such as dinner-and-a-movie date night, classic movie night, as well as live theatre and musical performances.

He has visions of removing the two front rows of seats and making room for tables to serve dinner. He’s also thinking about possibly expanding the existing stage to make room for live entertainment.

DJ sees these ideas and changes as not only a way to expand the opportunities for entertainment for the public, but also creative ways to raise funds to finance the planned updates.

He’s confident in the community’s backing in his new business venture.

“Luckily, I think Rugby people appreciate local businesses before they lose them” he said. “They support their local businesses. We’re counting on that support and hoping people will be open to our new ideas and events.”

The Centre Cinema opened in 1922 with Guy Troyer as the owner. There were a handful of owners through the years before the Nostdahls and Hamnes purchased the business in the late 1980s. Previous owner Otis Engen is responsible for hand painting the art deco murals on the walls in the lobby and inside the theater.

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