Jamie Arnold says there is a lot to finish at Libby’s Dome Theater before it tentatively reopens under new ownership on May 1. The Libby resident purchased the historic movie theater on March 8, after it closed earlier this year.
Now, Arnold is looking to the community to help with $70,000 in renovations, including purchasing a new digital projector for $45,000.
“It needs a lot of love, but it’s 65 years old and it has some really neat things,” she said.
Small-town theaters across the country are facing the pricey conversion to digital projection this year as studios stop putting movies on film. According to Patrick Corcoran of the National Association of Theatre Owners, the conversion will save studios $1 billion annually.
Last fall, Corcoran said there were 2,000 theaters across the country that still had yet to make the conversion. If a theater does not, it would have to show older movies or show nothing at all.
“Some small-town theaters will do well, if they have the capital, but others may not,” he said.
Arnold said she plans on making the switch to digital before the year is out, but also hopes to host plays and other community events. The historic theater has 310 seats and is one of the largest venues in Libby.
The Libby theater first opened in 1910, but burned in January of 1948. A few months later the current building was built and remained open until this year. Arnold said reopening the theater is as much about preserving the past as it is providing locals entertainment.
“There is nothing in our community. Things shut down and kids need something to do,” she said. “You can come in here and remember what it was like. It’s not like a modern theater where you just go to see a movie.”
Arnold and some contractors are working on refurbishing the inside of the theater and replacing parts of the roof. The theater recently held a community workday as well. Arnold said she is seeking sponsors and grants to pay for the expensive renovations.
It’s the same route that Tina Moore’s Lincoln Theatre – a part movie theater, part café, and part home – is taking over in Troy. Late last year she began fundraising to help pay for an eventual digital conversion.
Arnold said the work will take time and money, but she is already looking forward to the Dome’s grand reopening. In fact, she already purchased a new popcorn maker.
“I want to clean (the theater) up and get a new start,” she said.
For more information about the Dome Theater, visit the Dome Theater Project Facebook page or call Arnold at (406) 283-1243. You can also email her at [email protected]. There will also be a dinner and fundraiser for the theater at the Libby VFW on April 26 at 5:30 p.m.
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