As the Longmont Theatre Company's blue and red marquee lights illuminate more frequently nowadays, the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger, Board of Director's President Faye Lamb said.
"And they're still coming," she said.
In addition to its 60th season of live stage productions, the company has begun showing a handful of movies with plans to bring in live music performances and other entertainment possibilities — examples of the theater's revival since Lamb was brought on as president in June 2016.
Lamb said the company housed at 513 Main St. recently purchased a full-size movie screen using about $4,500 in donations. She said the theater still needs about $4,000 for sound equipment and the installation of the screen before it can be self-sufficient at showings.
"In the meantime, we're showing movies and we're using those funds to put into the kitty for this project," Lamb said.
The next showing — using borrowed screening and sound equipment — is a double feature this Saturday: at 4 p.m., the 1941 comedy drama, "Meet John Doe," and at 7 p.m., the 1942 American romantic drama, "Casablanca," with locally-produced shorts shown before each feature.
It will be followed by the live productions of "Other Desert Cities" in March and "Monty Python's Spamalot" in May.
Longmont Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kimberlee McKee said the downtown venue has always been a gem, but adding to the scheduling makes it more accessible to the community.
"Having the Longmont Theater Company add movies fulfills a long-term goal and vision that the community has asked for in the Downtown Longmont Creative District," she said. "A variety of entertainment options builds an active and vibrant atmosphere, complementing the existing shopping, dining and creative-based businesses."
In the last two years, she said, overall ticket revenue and audience size has increased by 29 percent, and 12 percent this past season.
Part of that growth has been due to paying staff — a maintenance person, box office manager, concessions house manager, contracted bookkeeper, theater director and artistic and donor services associate — to relieve volunteers.
"If you're going to run a venue, you need people here," she said. "So that's one of the very first things I did was develop a staff."
Income is generated by performing arts ticket revenue, she said, as well as a growing donor base. She said it costs more than $15,000 a month to run the venue.
The theater was built as the Fox Theatre in 1939, according to the city archive. It was purchased in 1960 by Richard Klein and renamed the Trojan Theater, but it closed in July 1986.
Pinki Buck, box office manager since October 2015, said the space sat vacant until 1990 when the Longmont Theatre Company purchased it to be a performing arts complex. She recalled that there used to be a cement vault in the lights and sound room that held the celluloid films.
"For most of its life it was a movie theater, and people still come in and say, 'I remember the first movie I saw here,'" Buck said.
She said she met a man who told her he saw "Star Wars" in the 1970s and he showed her exactly where he sat. She said another man came by who used to be a projectionist (a person operating the projector).
She said before the marquee was turned on again in August 2015, "people never knew this place was here; at night, it was dark."
Now, the place is boasting enough events to turn the lights on more often.
Lamb said the film selection is not confined because they want to remain spontaneous and creative, but they'll be consistent in serving popcorn, candy, soda, hot chocolate, alcohol — the first full liquor license was granted in May 2016 — and other concessions expected at the movies.
"We don't want to say we're going to show this type of movie or this type of movie; we want to get a feel for what people want in the audience," she said. "We know people want movies."
Both nostalgia and curiosity are luring people back to the theater and for the first time. Lamb said during her curtain speech she asks how many people are first-timers and how many people used to view movies there. She said hands shoot up at both questions.
"There's something when you walk in the door — I can't explain it," Lamb said. "Maybe the color, older concession stand and the old seats. There's just something, even little kids when they come in they just say, 'wow.' There's some sort of energy."
Amelia Arvesen: 303-684-5212, email@example.com or twitter.com/ameliaarvesen
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