Colorado City, TX – Colorado City movie theater flickering back to life

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on August 1, 2016 at 8:48 am

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From the Abilene Reporter-News: There’s three things every teen wants. Big towns or small, they all want a place to eat, a street to cruise and a movie to watch.

But most Big Country towns don’t have a movie theater. In Colorado City, they did have one for a time, but like Rule’s Tower Drive-In, it’s become a victim of progress.

“I guess within the last five years they’ve been talking about us converting to digital because they were going to stop making film,” said Marcus Monroe. He and his wife, Beatrice, own the Palace Theater, which is attached to the Baker Hotel downtown.

As movie cameras have gone digital, so too have movie studios when it comes to the distribution of finished movies on physical motion picture film.

“We’ve gotten to that point where it’s rare that we can get a film,” Marcus said. “We open whenever we can get one, but it’s not that consistent or easy to get a film.”

The couple bought the Palace in 2007, reopening it after nearly two decades. Both are from Colorado City and recalled being in middle school when the theater closed.

“Oh, I was upset, I remember that feeling,” Beatrice said. “I was disappointed, we thought, ‘What are we going to do now?’”

Marcus felt the same way, but even in eighth grade he had an idea of what to do about it.

“When it shut down, everyone was upset and I told everybody I was going to reopen it when got older,” he said, a smile on his face. “And I did.”

The closest movie theaters are in Big Spring or Snyder. One-way, that’s a 40- or 25-mile drive, respectively.

“The reason that I support this is because I remember when my little sister was in high school,” Beatrice said. “Her group of friends went to Snyder to watch a movie, and one of them had an accident. She passed away; it was awful and it shook the whole town.”

That wintertime tragedy brought home to her the need to have a cinema in Colorado City, but it wasn’t the only reason.

“We started a movie theater business because we loved going to the movies as high school sweethearts,” Beatrice said. “When we lived in Abilene, my husband would tell me, ‘One day, we’re going to own a movie theater.’ I was like, ‘OK, sure.’”

But when Marcus finally signed a contract for the Palace, his dream turned into reality.

“He’s always loved the kids here and has always wanted to do something for them,” she said.

But as technology advanced, losing film and all the associated costs of development, production and shipping was the direction all the studios began to take. Theaters would have to either upgrade or shut down.

“We’ve been doing fundraisers probably for about three years, and we’re between $10,000 to $15,000 short of our goal,” said Marcus. “It’s about $60,000 to convert.”

The couple also show movies in Sweetwater at the Texas Theatre, but are running into the same digital conversion issue there as well. An effort to address that is also underway.

It’s been a real commitment for the couple, as physical films began to be replaced by digital discs, they’ve had to find other work to supplement their income.

“This was actually our livelihood, that’s all we did,” Beatrice said. “Now with this being slow because of not being converted to digital, we were limited on movies so we had to find other jobs until we could convert.”

But they’ve kept at it, using weekends and whatever spare time they had after taking care of their family to ensure their dream remains a reality. On Friday and Saturday, the Monroes sponsored a local ragball tournament, which is a gentler version of softball, and Marcus expected to raise at least $3,000 from that. At this point, their goal appears to be just over the horizon.

“We are actually trying to get this done before Christmas,” he said. “We’re really close enough to start locating equipment and finding people to put it in. Hopefully before Christmas we’ll have it upgraded.”

Beyond its entertainment value, you can argue a case for cinema being the dominant art form of our modern culture. That’s everything from Titanic and Transformers, which are Beatrice and Marcus' favorites, to the smaller movies featured in Abilene’s annual 24FPS International Short Film Festival.

The demise of the Tower Drive-In, and the toppling of its screen by high winds late last year, was the topic of the Jan. 3 Big Country Journal. The passing of a venue like that can have a deeper effect on a town beyond simply having to drive farther to catch a show.

“Yeah, I really think that hurts the community,” Marcus said. “(Going to the movies) helps families stay together. I know it’s an asset to any community to have something where families can go and enjoy themselves.”

“When we do close, I hear about kids going to Big Spring,” Beatrice said. “It’s dangerous for these kids to go out and watch a movie, so I like to keep them home safe, here.”

Sixteen teams signed up for the ragball tournament, an indicator of how much Colorado City wants to get its theater back. That’s the sort of support that’s kept the family going.

“We just appreciate anyone that’s done anything to help us along with this project,” Marcus said. “We’re not going to give up, we’re close enough now that we’re definitely going to get this done.”

Story link: http://www.reporternews.com/news/columnists/big-country-journal/colorado-city-movie-theater-flickering-back-to-life-38f2b5e4-d349-73ee-e053-0100007fb7a8-388797621.html

ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at historictheatres.org

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