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Schuyler’s movie theater gets big boost

February 23, 2019

After years of its fair share of hardships, things are looking up for the Colfax Theater.

The Schuyler Enrichment Foundation, which oversees the theater’s operations, was recently awarded a $3,000 grant courtesy of the Colfax Foundation. Glen Jedlicka, Fran Sobota and Randy Hrouda on Monday presented the check to SER’s Zach Johnson and Cathie Marking in downtown Schuyler.

“We were ecstatic, I have to say. We were so excited,” Marking said of learning her organization would be a recipient of the grant program. “When Fran called and told me they had a check, I was doing the happy dance.”

The grant money is being pumped back into the downtown cinema. SER officials have already purchased and installed a new cooler that boasts shelving and stores ice cold soda pop for movie patrons. Funds will also go toward installing industrial ceiling fans in the theater to help move air around. An upgraded dehumidifier will be purchased down the line, as well.

“It was great the foundation was willing to help out because we knew these projects needed to get done, but we don’t have all the funding sitting around to get it done ourselves,” Johnson said. “So we’re thankful.”

The funds couldn’t have come at a better time for the Colfax Theater, which Johnson and Marking said turned a profit for the first time in nine years in 2018.

Throughout 2018, the theater had struggled to find enough people to serve as managers and maintain steady attendance. But toward the end of the year, things began to pick up. That coincided with the decision to begin screening R-rated movies on occasion, and though it sparked initial concern among some, ultimately it proved successful thanks to many residents who came out to see films like “The Nun” and “A Star Is Born.”

“Attendance has slowly been increasing,” Johnson said, noting at the tail end of 2018 and so far this year attendance has ranged from 60-80 people per show compared to about the 20-30 prior.

“It’s getting better. The word is getting out, people are finding more about the theater,” Johnson said. “It’s more on their radar now, so they know they can come during their free times on the weekend.”

Johnson and Marking also said they’ve been able to bring on more managers to help fill shifts and have seen continued interest from area businesses in sponsoring movies. The sponsored movies result in discounts for the community. On those days, tickets, which are normally $5 for kids and $6 for adults, are only $3 for everyone.

The people of Schuyler and surrounding communities who visit the business are why the grant was so wonderful for the cinema, Johnson and Marking stressed, adding the local school district hosts a movie day at the theater often for different students.

’We’re just making improvements since we’re starting to see an increase in ticket sale and attendance,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to put money back into the theater to continue to make it a place people can go in Schuyler.”

Those on the Colfax Foundation, who noted they all patronize the Colfax Theater, said they were happy to support an entity that means a lot to the community.

“We look for something in the community where we can spend some money on some worthy projects,” said the nonprofit’s president, Randy Hrouda. “The need was there, so we decided to do it … It’s good for us and good for them … We’re here for the community.”

Meanwhile, the Colfax Theater is gearing up for several busy weeks. “The Kid Who Would Be King” (PG) plays this weekend, while “The Lego Movie 2” (PG), “What Men Think” (Rated R), “Isn’t It Romantic” (PG-13), “How To Train Your Dragon – The Hidden World” (PG) and “Captain Marvel” (PG-13) will all come to the local screen in March.

Movies play at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, as well as 2 p.m. on Sundays. See schuylercolfaxtheater.com for showtimes and more information.

“It’s amazing,” Johnson said of the continued support the cinema receives. “We just want to try to make sure it’s a nice place for people to come. We want to try to keep everybody happy.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.