Volunteer-driven theater continues to thrill movie fans
MANCHESTER, Iowa (AP) — It took a community effort to save Delaware County’s only movie theater, and nearly a decade later, it still is going strong.
The Telegraph Herald reports that the single-screen Castle Theatre has been open in Manchester since 1935. There were plans to put the facility up for sale about nine years ago, and it didn’t seem likely someone would buy it with the intention of keeping it a movie theater, said Jack Klaus, chairman of Friends of the Castle Theatre.
It was purchased by a local nonprofit group. It now is eligible for grants and can be operated by volunteers.
Klaus said the community gave the theater a lot of backing when discussions about its possible closure emerged, and that support has continued.
“Lots of people didn’t want to lose it,” he said. “Moms of middle school kids said there wouldn’t be anywhere for the kids to go.”
Friends of the Castle Theatre recently sent out flyers to local residents as part of the theater’s annual fundraiser. People can become a Castle Theatre member by donating at least $25.
Klaus said the membership not only helps raise funds for cleaning and updates — including installing surround sound, new seats and a projector — but also keeps the community involved in the facility. Members can vote on who holds seats on the theater’s board of directors.
Theater Manager Kristy Davis said volunteers spend about 300 hours per month to keep the theater running. Some travel from towns such as Strawberry Point to work concessions.
The facility only has two paid positions: manager and assistant manager.
While more volunteers are always sought, Davis said, the theater never has an issue with finding enough people for shifts.
“The amount of support that we get is amazing,” she said.
Davis said lots of people travel to Manchester to see films. A new movie usually plays each week.
According to a survey that Castle Theatre put out a few years ago, an average movie crowd includes attendees who travel 20 miles to catch a flick, Klaus said.
Some people might come to Manchester instead of going to bigger movie theaters due to low ticket prices, Davis said. Tickets are $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.
Lots of families and couples on dates come to enjoy the feel-good atmosphere, Klaus said.
“We just had the movie ‘Book Club,’ and I’ve never seen so many excited, happy women. The theater was almost full,” he said.
Davis said the theater sometimes holds special showings or events.
A few months ago, she said, the theater held a special showing of “The Greatest Showman” for Cathy Parrott, a local woman who was an assistant costume designer for the film.
This summer, the theater also has shown free children’s movies on Tuesdays for the first time, Davis said. She called the offers a success.
Jessica Pape, Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said she has been going to Castle Theatre her whole life.
The theater does a wonderful job of communicating and listening to the community’s needs, she said, like seeing what films people want to see brought to the big screen.
Not a lot of small towns can support a movie theater anymore, Pape said, but Castle Theatre is a project the community loves, and it brings vibrancy to the downtown area.
“It brings back some of the nostalgia that a small town is all about,” she said.
Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com