By Jim Grawe
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
6:23 PM CDT, October 31, 2011
What makes for a fun outing in a small rural Kansas town of only 800 people? In Coldwater, they can still go to the movies.
The Chief Theatre is the hot spot in town. Movies have been showing there since 1928. Eldon Hecht used to run the projector.
"Generally on Saturday evenings we'd have half a block of people lined up and coming in," Hecht says.
But by the early 2000s the theatre was losing money and in a state of disrepair. Then, a group of business people led by pharmacist Lisa Gales formed a non-profit corporation and bought the Chief. With the help of a state grant they restored it and got it listed on the Historic Registry.
"It's strange," Gales says. "Our motif in this theatre is very art deco meets Plains Indians...and that's why we're one of a kind."
With the next-closest movie theatre about an hour away, the Chief entertains people and helps keep the community connected.
However, soon the shows may not go on. The theatre faces a new challenge that could shut it down for good.
"By next summer all the theatre industry is changing over to digital," Gales says.
It will cost 70-thousand dollars to replace the old projector. Since the theatre just breaks even using volunteer help, it will take a lot of donations.
"Even though we've had some really wonderful homeruns in the past to keep this theatre open and were able to fix it up, if we're not able to raise the money for this new projector by next summer we'll be forced to close," Gales says.
But, somehow the people of Coldwater expect to find a way. Because if history is any guide, the effort to raise money for the new projector will have a true, happy Hollywood ending.
You can send donations to help the Chief Theater Project - Make checks payable to Chief Theater
Chief Community Theater
PO Box 513
Coldwater, Kansas 67029
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