Putting the ‘Castle’ back in New Castle, Ind.
NEW CASTLE, IN — The City of New Castle along with Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana announced today that Dave and Wanda Battas, cinema operators from Indianapolis, have leased, will restore and plan to reopen the Castle Theatre in New Castle, Ind. The Battas family owns a concession supply company and are veteran operators and managers of several cinemas in Central Indiana.
Area residents were shocked and saddened last month when the theatre was closed with short notice. This left the county seat of Henry County without a cinema for the first time since movies came to the prairie in the early 1900s.
“I believe that every town should have a theatre,” said Dave Battas, who brings decades of theater operation experience to the Castle. “It is a part of our identity. We need to be entertained together in the same way that we see sports and other attractions. Getting together for wholesome entertainment is good stress relief for all ages in these challenging times. There’s nothing like hearing hundreds of people laugh at the same joke.”
Dave and Wanda read about the closing of the Castle Theatre in the Courier-Times, in other area papers and in Internet postings. They decided to pursue leasing and operating the theater after positive discussions with New Castle Mayor Jim Small and Wayne Goodman, Director of the Eastern Regional office of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. While the theatre has only been closed a short time and is relatively good condition, Dave and Wanda have decided to do some maintenance prior to re-opening.
“We plan to be good stewards of this historic theatre,” said Dave Battas. “We look forward to working with area businesses so that we can survive in tandem with the restaurants and shops. We are extremely excited about operating the Castle and being a valuable part of the New Castle and Henry County community.”
Opened in 1935, the historic Castle Theatre is a modest, modern/art deco 650-seat cinema that retains some of its original swirled red and black Vitrolite on its façade. It features historic panoramic aerial views of New Castle in its lobby and a spacious auditorium with a large screen and a small stage. It takes its name not only from the city but also from the earlier Princess Theatre across the street, which it has long since outlived.
“Dave Battas has not only saved a historic theatre, but he has saved a crucial piece of the community,” said Wayne Goodman of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. “A theatre is so very important to sustain a quality of life and to attract and increase in outside investment.
“This historic theatre will play a successful part in downtown revitalization efforts that are proving to reverse decades of decline,” Goodman added. “The community now needs to fully support its community theatre. Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Battas, we have been given a second chance. We now know what it feels like to not have a theatre, and we know that it was not a good feeling.”
Local leaders expressed gratitude and excitement regarding the Castle’s planned reopening. “This is really exciting news for the downtown revitalization effort,” said New Castle Mayor Jim Small. “The Castle Theatre will play an important role in re-establishing the Downtown Historic District as the place to go for family entertainment and dining.”
“I am so very thankful to the Battas family for adding to the entertainment and business community of Henry County,” said Mike McIntosh, executive director of the New Castle-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. “It takes everyone in Henry County working together to make our community the best place to live and work.”
Even individuals outside the local vicinity expressed interest and excitement about the recent news to preserve the theatre and continue its use.
“The flashing lights and neon on Main Street are the pulse of the city,” said Andy Pierce, a New Castle native and an organizer with the Theatre Historical Society of America, which is headquartered in Elmhurst, Ill. Pierce said the Castle may be part of a statewide tour of 25 historic venues taking place June 22-26, 2010.
“Asking residents if they want their historic theatre opened back up is like asking kids if they want Christmas,” Pierce added. “It is something on which everyone can agree and enjoy for generations to come. It builds friendships and community when we turn off the phones, put down the video games, turn off the TV and go back to the local movie house. Your Castle Theatre is one of the best kept secrets in the state.”
New Castle and Henry County residents should be able to enjoy entertainment at the Castle Theatre on a regular basis again soon. “If all goes as planned, we will re-open on March 26,” said Battas. “Work has already started. I have already secured some first-rate movies that I think will bring quality cinema entertainment back to the area.”
Historic Landmarks Foundation ofIndiana
IDNR Historic Theatre Initiative
Theatre Historical Society of America