As the nearly 80 people filed out Otter Tail Community Room on the evening on Nov. 27, it was obvious the will to save the Centre Cinema was alive.
The question the community faces with just a month remaining until the theatre is set to close, is what they want to do to keep it open.
“The main thing that came out of that meeting is they want to keep it a community facility,” said Brenda Foster, executive director of the Job Development Authority. “It’s just how do they want to do it.”
A number of options were brought up at the meeting, organized by Foster and Shelley Block, executive director of the Rugby Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The duo gave an overview to the assembled crowd of what other comparable communities have done, from running the cinemas through arts councils or having them owned by a city but operated by another organization.
Foster announced a positive bit of news at the outset.
The JDA had applied for a grant through “Save Americas Cinemas,” which is attempting to raise $1 million to save small-town theatres similar to Rugby’s.
If approved, representatives from the organization would bring new digital equipment to Rugby and install it and train people on how to operate it.
Foster said, if approved, the grant could save as much as $100,000 toward the estimated total of $150,000 for upgrade and purchase of the building.
One option that may be likely is for the JDA to purchase the building at the price of $35,000 to ensure that it isn’t purchased by someone else who wouldn’t want to keep it as a theatre.
Foster said that possibility would be explored at the next JDA board meeting.
There was plenty of open discussion at the meeting, from people making passionate pleas about the importance of keeping the theatre to warnings that it’s easy to want to keep it maintained and operating but it will take work to do so.
“We all want it, but are we all willing what it takes to do it?” asked one attendee.
The group continued to ask questions about what it would cost to operate the theatre and how many people it would take.
The main concern was that it was going to be used enough to make the investment worthwhile.
“If we’re going to invest in it, we’re need to know that you’re going to use it and use it and use it,” Block said.
A number of groups and individuals pledged to stay involved in the issue and Foster said there will be a steering committee that should include nearly 20 members.
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