Community fund makes Ainsworth theater a reality

When a movie theater in Ainsworth burned down in 2014, it left a void. But money from the local community foundation fund is helping open the doors to a new theater.

Bryan Doke is a physical therapist in Ainsworth, and a member of the Ainsworth Grand Theater Board. You could say his practice a connection to the movies in town. "The building that I'm in just so happens to be a former movie theater on main street," Doke said.

It turns out there's been many theaters over the years in Ainsworth. "My folks bought the Pine View drive-in theater," Ainsworth Grand Theater Board Member Teri Soles said. "It's east of town by Long Pine, and they ran that for probably 30 years."

But when a popular theater burned in 2014, it was a real disappointment to the community. "I was here when the theater burned down, and it was a loss in the community that needed to be replaced," Doke said. So, board members of the theater set out to do just that. Now in 2019, the new Ainsworth Grand Theater is set to open the weekend of August 9th. It's happening thanks to hard work from board members, volunteers, and the support of the community. "It's been a good experience, we've all learned a lot along the way, and we've learned that we have the community's support," Ainsworth Grand Theater Board Member Kathy Klammer said.

Money from the Brown County Community Foundation Fund is credited with helping make new theater a reality. "The Brown County Community Foundation fund is an affiliated fund with the Nebraska Community Foundation, as are many other funds across the state," fund advisory committee member Steve Bartak said. An unrestricted fund allows a payout each year to programs within the community. "We've had significant growth over the last 10 years, which means the endowment payout available to us has increased. Currently, we have $46,000 available to spend within our community to improve the quality of life."

Members of the fund advisory committee determined that building a new movie theater would be a worthy use of the payout money. The dollars were then awarded to finish the theater. Volunteers with the theater are hoping it will not only be a place of entertainment, but also an important tool for attracting young families back to town. "To go into a movie theater and watch a movie is something people still enjoy doing," Klammer said.

What makes this theater even more worthy of money from the community foundation fund, is that it's all run by volunteers. "They do the concessions, they clean the theater, and they get the option to watch the movies," volunteer coordinator Rhonda Theis said. "They are hard workers, they do a good job for us."

Residents involved with the community fund advisory committee say they hope to continue supporting the area. "We are learning what it's like to work together and to form these partnerships," fund advisory committee member Colleen Lentz said. "We are excited to be able to enhance our community with things we might never before have been able to dream about."