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Our Town Crete: Isis Theatre

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 11:43 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2021 at 1:23 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - There is plenty of excitement surrounding the effort to renovate the Isis Theatre. The idea is to make it an arts and entertainment destination for all members of the community.

During a visit to the building, we talked with Shaylene Smith with the Blue River Arts Council. “This building was put up in 1926,” Smith said. “It was the first movie theater built in the Midwest that had sound capability. It actually came out before the first ‘talkies’. The designer was a Crete local, and he had been working as a set designer in Hollywood, actually under the gentleman that eventually formed MGM. When he came back to the community, and wanted to build a theater, he actually knew some of the tricks of the trade, and he knew what was coming out of Hollywood at the time. This was top tech at the time.”

The interior of the Isis Theatre is specifically designed for sound. “The acoustics in the auditorium are incredible,” Smith said. “We’ve had some live performances here. The sound is great, both for a movie format and for live theater. Our goal is to re-open the Isis and to allow for both live performances and movies.”

“This had been operated as a movie theater by the last two owners,” Smith said. “It was closed in 2018 by its last private owner.” Smith says contract requirements from Hollywood for movies can make running a small town theater difficult for local owners. “A group of volunteers later rallied around the idea of saving it,” Smith said. “We formed an arts council. Rather than just focusing on the theater as a building, we are looking at how we as a group can bring additional arts and entertainment options to the community, and how we can do that in a way that brings all of our cultures together.”

Smith says the Blue River Arts Council held an event in February of 2020 to announce a capital campaign. “Our first cases of COVID were announced in Saline County about 15 days later,” Smith said. “That stopped fundraising. But now, we are discovering that people really want to see this open, and they are stepping up in huge ways.” Members of the Blue River Arts Council believe there is going to be enough money available to not only renovate the theater, but do it in a way most people are hoping for. “We started with what does this look like as just a movie theater,” Smith said. “But, we know that this building can do so much more, and our community needs so much more. So, we’ve been able to marry those interests. The support has come forward from the community, and as a result, we are going to have the stage theater ready to go with theater lighting for live theater. We will be able to provide movies 3 or 4 days a week on a set schedule with a volunteer staff, and our goal is to provide some extra fun for the community maybe once a month.”

The hope is to have the new theater open by March of 2022.

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