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Theater future bleak

By Staff | Oct 5, 2012

A small town movie theater used to be one of the busiest places in town. Not so today, where movies can be viewed on television, computers, videos, and other forms of modern day technology.

Due to an industry change all over the United States switching from film to digital, the smaller theaters are at a disadvantage.The digital equipment it takes to show this new format is too costly to purchase. Add to that the fact that not enough people go to the theater to watch movies on a regular basis and small theaters all over the country are succumbing to technological advances. In this, the 21st Century, new technology has taken over and edged the small theaters out of business.

Rugby is no exception. Too few people attend movies at the local Centre Cinema, which means the theater cannot cover the overhead much less purchase expensive, but necessary, new equipment.

“Even if we made the conversion, there wouldn’t be enough people using it,” said David “DJ” Anderson, current owner.

Anderson grew up with the theater, working there, attending movies, and at one time his mom and her husband owned the theater. He has a special place in his heart for the Centre Cinema.

In the past three years, he and his wife, Melissa, have sponsored various fundraising events at the theater under the “Restore the Lyric” project, which included: teen dances, a magician, Halloween party for adults, live music, hospital seminars, and birthday parties where the birthday person’s name was highlighted in the marquee. None of the fundraisers were very well attended by the public. A few people showed support, but not enough to keep the theater open.

The theatre opened under the name “Lyric Theatre” in the 1920s. The state-of-the -art facility was the talk of the town at that time. The house was filled to capacity for two showings a day. Many more seats filled the original building than there are today. The builder was Mr. Guy A. Troyer, and all the work was done by local contractors.

The Theater has always had area owners. Mr. Troyer is spoken of and given high acclaim in a 1926 newspaper account of the new theatre. Otis Engen, Frank Massine, and James Christianson were some of the owners over the years. After Christianson, the theatre was closed for a period. In 1987 Doug Hamnes and Eric and Bob Nostdahl, Bottineau, bought it. They sold a contract for deed to David J. Anderson, who took over ownership on April 1, 2009. Ole Fursather was a longtime projectionist, and Leonard Massine was the projectionist when stereophonic sound equipment and a panasonic screen were later added, according to an article in the April 8, 1954 Tribune.

Anderson is concerned that there will be no movie theater in Rugby by the end of the year and possibly even sooner. About 70% of movies are produced digitally and only 30% still on film, nationally. This makes it harder to get movies on film. For instance, there will be no movie this weekend as Anderson was not able to get one to show.

“It’s very sad, the thought that Rugby won’t have a theater, ” said Anderson. “I was hoping to be around to celebrate the 100th birthday of this theater in Rugby.”

He is going to try to keep the theater open until Christmas so that kids can visit Santa Claus there one last time. However, it may not be possible to do that and the theater could close any time, although no exact date has been set yet.

The theater building is for sale and Anderson is hopeful someone will buy it and put it to good use, whether as a movie theater or a stage theater or some other use.

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