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TOPIC: Small town cinemas disappearing?

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 10 Nov 2011 18:23 #37375

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JPRM wrote:
I have a question, and I don't mean this as any sort of comment on what WILL be the effect of digital conversion for small-town theaters.

When we're talking about theaters such as these that are closing right now, is it correct to blame the cost of digital? Are owners closing these places simply in anticipation of the cost of converting? Or are there just no buyers (for the same reason) when these theaters go up for sale?

There may have been many factors that contributed to the closure of the theater I cited in an earlier post, but an inability to get prints didn't seem to be one of them. Again, I'm not asking anyone to predict anything about digital. I just want to know if it's causing theaters to close as we speak.

Theatres that are closing now have their own problems and they vary: Regal has shut 8 screens in places. Everyone has their reasons when they close a theatre. We are not at the "forced out of business" stage yet: you can still get film. Maybe tighter on some prints or harder to get good ones because theatres do not let performing pics loose but there's still no shortage of supply. Yet. The squeeze will come later and that will be completely about the cost of digital, the end of the VPF, the limited VPF available to smaller theatres, etc.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 21 Nov 2011 16:38 #37422

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I guess this theater does not realize that film will be around for a few more years and that this is no resaon to panic. (sarcasm)

Digital film threatens historic movie house
By PAUL MORDEN, The Observer

The Forest Kiwanis Club wants to raise at least $70,000 so the march of technology doesn't force the historic Kineto movie house to go dark.

Bought and revived by the service club in 1977, at a time when many small town theatres were shutting down, the Kineto's future is once again at risk.

This time, the movie industry's move from 35 mm film to digital projection is the culprit.

New movies aren't expected to be available a year from now for the theatre's 35-mm film projector, said club member Glen Starkey.

An equipment upgrade is needed to show films in the digital format.

"Since we don't want to go dark, we have to change," Starkey said.

The club shows films four nights a week at the downtown theatre that dates to 1917, in a break-even operation designed to be a community service.

"It's become somewhat of an institution in Forest and surrounding area," Starkey said.

The films aren't first-run but a ticket is only $5 and the snacks at the concession booth come with reasonable prices.

"For a family to come out for an evening, you're not going to blow $50 just by walking in the door," Starkey said.

Depending on the film, the 225-seat theatre can attract 200 to 500 people over a weekend.

"A couple of weeks ago we had The Help, which was an excellent movie and we sold out a couple of nights."

The club has put a request for donations out to the community, and it's approaching the Trillium Foundation, Forest Community Foundation and potential corporate donors.

The first donation to arrive was $5,000 from the Uttoxeter Women's Institute, a group celebrating its centennial in 2013.

"We were quite thrilled that they were willing to help us out," Starkey said.

"They're a great group of ladies."

Installing digital equipment is expected to cost $70,000, and accommodating 3-D films will add about $30,000 to the price tag.

The 35-member service club raises $20,000 to $25,000 a year for community projects that include park upgrades, bike rodeos and the Santa Claus parade.

"To come up with an additional $70,000 within a year is just beyond our means as an individual club," Starkey said. "So that's why we're going out to the community."

Starkey said the club members hope the fundraising is successful by the end of March so the equipment can be installed in the spring.

"That's our lofty goal at this point," he said.

"We've worked hard over the years to keep it running and I think the community appreciates that."
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 21 Nov 2011 16:39 #37423

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Gladbrook Theater nears goal to digitalize
November 21, 2011
By ANGIE WILSON , Times-Republican

Gladbrook-The Gladbrook Theater is $10,000 shy of their $80,000 goal to change from film to digital movies.

JoAnn Ruopp, Gladbrook Theater manager, said "The movie industry is changing, this is a necessary move or we would have to close."

Ruopp explains that Midwest theaters with lower cost of admission are not a priority for film makers to send their movies to. Not only do theaters have to pay an advance fee to get movies, but they also have to pay a percentage of the ticket sales back to the film production companies.

"We do not make our profits from ticket sales," said Ruopp, "We make them from our concession stands."

The Gladbrook Theater currently charges two dollars for admission with no plans to increase that cost to help with the upgrade.

Fundraising began in September to change to digital film. The first event was a dinner and movie night. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans matched the money raised during that event. Gethman Foundation donated $10,000.

"We also have had donations ranging from one dollar to $5,000," Ruopp said.

The next fundraising event will be November 30th when Gladbrook hosts it's annual Christmas Tree Lighting.

"We will have a silent auction table during the tree lighting," said Ruopp.

The silent auction will have several items including a 16 pound bowling ball made into a gazing ball by the Tama County CDC clients. Ruopp proudly displays the gazing ball explaining that the CDC clients come to movies in Gladbrook monthly.

Raffle tickets are currently available for a quilt that will be raffled Dec. 10 at the Lions Soup Day. The proceeds from the soup day will also go to the theater.

"Gladbrook is alive and growing. We have something that brings out of towners to our community," said Ruopp.

Ruopp explains that Matchstick Marvels, connected to the theater, and the Gladbrook Theater draw tour busses from out of town.

"We never had that before the theater, it has been great for our tourism," she said.

Ruopp plans a Walk of Fame displaying stars of all of the donors upon completion of the upgrade to digital. The theater will close for three days in early January to install the permanent screen and equipment needed for digital movies.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 21 Nov 2011 17:34 #37424

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Family Cinema closing its doors by year's end

MANITOWOC — After eight years, Joe Bauknecht is closing Family Cinema, 3615 Dewey St., after the last show on Dec. 29.

Bauknecht said Tuesday the Hollywood studios are insisting all theaters transition to digital projection by September 2012, which requires an investment of about $100,000 per screen.

Family Cinema has four screens while his Strand Theatre on downtown Eighth Street, which Bauknecht is keeping open, has six screens and a total of 1,200 seats versus 400 at his Dewey Street site.

Bauknecht said the transition to digital will result in perfect picture quality and enhanced audio every screening compared to 35-millimeter film that degrades with each projection.

“We are not going bankrupt … this is a major upgrade for the movie viewer.
“We also will be able to show pay-per-views, Broadway plays and possibly other special events,” said Bauknecht, who bought the Strand about a year after opening Family Cinema.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 21 Nov 2011 19:29 #37425

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I saw an ad for a theater and restaurant (next door) that had become "available" last week. No specifics as to whether these were up for lease, sale, etc. This is an independently owned, first-run, 2-screen in an affluent suburb.

So I went to check it out just in time for the late show on Thursday night. The place charged about the same as local chains for admission. The carpet was tatty, candy was displayed by being tacked up on a cork bulletin board which sat beside the concession stand. Most importantly, there were NO customers. None! Please note that this place IS getting movies, playing lots of stuff on the break, etc.

Compare this to a theater I'd attended the previous Wednesday - a second-run joint that serves pizza and beer and charges 4 bucks admission. For the late show, there was a good crowd, and EVERYONE who came in the door bought concessions. This place was playing things like "Cowboys and Aliens" - films that have been out for months.

Both of the aforementioned theaters are still running 35mm, but you know what? One of them has found a way to succeed while the other has done nothing to keep attracting customers. One will probably have the means or credit to convert to digital while the other won't.

My point is that some theaters are just badly run by people who have no understanding of the simple truth that presentation is everything. I'm sure the owner of the first theater I mentioned here will blame the cost of digital when (not if) he closes shop. For now, I'm gonna blame the candy tacked to the bulletin board.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 23 Nov 2011 18:46 #37444

Yes and no. There are a lot of theaters shuting down, but some communities like in Avon, NY are trying to save their home town theaters. I have a link below about it.

I think it is good to see a community to rally around a theater like this.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 24 Nov 2011 14:38 #37450

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Forest City's movie theater to close soon unless buyer found

By CAITLIN HAMILTON, For The Globe Gazette | Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 10:12 am | (1) Comments

The Forest Theatre will close Nov. 30 as owners Gary and Cathy Compston will retire. The theater has been family owned and operated for 38 years.

FOREST CITY - A Forest City downtown tradition of watching a movie may be gone soon, if no buyer for the Forest Theatre steps forward.

Owners Gary Compston and his wife, Cathy, have decided to retire and close the business on Nov. 30. The Compstons have operated the theater downtown since 1973.

The Compstons have been trying to sell the business for three years, but as of this week, there is no buyer, Realtor Pat Lovik of Missal Realty said. The business is listed for $167,000.
Lovik said there been a number of inquiries about buying the theater but none have come to fruition.
The theater is an important amenity for the town, Forest City Economic Development Director Beth Bilyeu said.
Bilyeu said maintaining the theater is on the list of projects for Forest City Economic Development in the coming weeks, but said it couldn't make any guarantees for progress before the theater is to close next week.
Some area communities have formed non-profit committees to adopt and renovate movie theaters in their towns, which is still a possibility for Forest City, Compston said.

"I think if you get a group of individuals to step up and work together, you could make a go of it," he said.
Neighboring communities such as Belmond, Northwood and Lake Mills formed non-profits to restore and operate theaters in their town, while Clarion and Garner are currently in the process of re-opening their shuttered movie houses.

Bilyeu said an exploratory committee is researching the feasibility of a non-profit owning the theater, but "it would be best if a private person bought it."

Scott Helgeson, chairman of the board of Lake Mills Entertainment Inc., said improving the quality of life in Lake Mills motivated the re-opening of the Mills Theatre in 2008.

"No one wanted to see it closed," Helgeson said. "It was quite an undertaking."
The non-profit group performed major fundraising to renovate the building, which had leaks, a collapsed roof and back wall and an overwhelming odor, Helgeson said. The project raised almost $500,000 including about $100,000 by contacting alumni of Lake Mills to "Help Save the Mills", Helgeson said.
The Forest Theatre does not have any imminent structural renovations, Compston said.
"It's a turn-key operation," he said. "Anyone can run it."

An upgrade to digital projection would be needed in the coming years, at a cost of about $80,000. Movies are now copied digitally for presentation in theaters. Film-grade movies that need projectors are increasingly becoming more difficult to find, Compston said.

Marilyn Hoffman, the Lake Mills Chamber Development Director, said Forest City residents should embrace the opportunity, as it is a much smaller project than the one completed in Lake Mills.
"We had to totally rebuild. Forest City has to step up because they don't have to rebuild their theater," Hoffman said.
Helgeson urged Forest City to perform a similar project in their town, as a theater is "a vital part of the community."
The city of Clarion is in the final stages of its theater restoration, and hopes to open in mid-December.
The non-profit Clarion Theater Group Inc. needs $110,000 more to reach its $250,000 goal, said the theater group's current president Steve Burkheimer.
"(The $110,000) is very, very attainable," Burkheimer said.
The group purchased the theater for $80,000 and recently spent $85,000 upgrading to digital, Burkheimer said.
Theaters help the community overall by providing traffic to restaurants and shopping, Burkheimer said.
"They're a hub of activity for a lot of things," he said.
FCED's Bilyeu said the theater is as asset to Forest City.
"I think it would be a great benefit to the community if we were able to find a way to make it feasible to stay open," Bilyeu said. "Gary has done a wonderful job in running the theater these many years they have been there."
The Clarion project is a good example of a community preserving the theater, Compston said.
"The people wanted the theater so bad, they raised the money to buy it, " Compston said.
Closing the Forest City theater may work to the community's advantage, Burkheimer said.
"The best thing that could happen is having the theater close down for a month," Burkheimer said. "They'll (the community will) be excited to hear someone is opening it up."
Caitlin Hamilton is a reporter for the Forest City Summit, which, like the Globe Gazette, is a Lee Enterprises newspaper.

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Last Edit: 24 Nov 2011 15:15 by rufusjack.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 24 Nov 2011 15:41 #37451

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Museum Board: Digital movies would kill theater

By Carol Broder/Arizona Range News
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:48 PM CST
The Rex Allen Theater cannot re-open unless a $6,500 debt is paid to the film booker.

The Rex Allen Museum Board has received proposals from Daniel Kingery and Derek Truschke of Willcox to run the theater.

Truschke's name was listed on the agenda under "New Business" to make a presentation on the theater, however he was not at Wednesday night's meeting.

Kingery's name was not on the agenda, however, he had submitted a copy of his proposal to the Range News.

Contacted Thursday morning, Truschke said he had to work that night and was unaware he had been placed on the meeting's agenda.

At that point in the meeting, Debbie Sunderland of Willcox asked what was happening with the theater.

"There is still a dispute as to whose business it is," replied Board President Larry Schultz,

He said that the theater has been a debt to the Museum since 2006, costing a total of $27,226.19.

Treasurer Alfred Telles explained that in the next five years, the theater would have to become "all digital," which he described as a move that will "drastically affect small theaters in the the next two years."

He said that movie theater closures have affected not just towns like Willcox, but bigger cities like Tucson and Phoenix, as well.

Vice President Jennifer Telles explained that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) recently approved the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) request to permit recent movies to be sent directly to American households over secure high definition transmission lines from their cable or satellite providers prior to their release on DVD.

"It's very unlikely that small theaters are going to be able to continue," she said.

Alfred Telles explained that once all of the movie studios go digital - "once that happens you have three to five years," so it's not simply a matter of starting the theater back up without a business plan in place.

The board has to determine "is it truly viable or is it not?" he said.

Schultz said that there is group of small movie theater owners that have banded together - "but the movie studios have refused to work with them."

Making the Rex Allen Theater digital would take "a huge amount of investment - more than the Museum takes in," he said.

Sunderland asked if anyone on the museum board had talked to the people who run a small movie theater in Safford.

Museum Manager Delcie Schultz said that she drove up there to talk to them but they were closed.

Sunderland explained that a church group took over the theater three or four years ago, and they show second run movies - not first release -- and are open four days per week.

"They seem to be successful," Sunderland said.

Alfred Telles replied that the movie theater in Willcox would be done away with in three to five years.

"At least we'd have it for a few more years," Sunderland replied.

"No theater is going to open in Willcox until the studios are paid," Jennifer Telles said.

Alfred Telles said that a theater only open four days a week showing second run movies might be "the only truly viable option."

"Bill would ask to borrow money to get the first run movies in," said Delcie Schultz.

While Nolan did not attend Wednesday's meeting, he told the Range News later, "We did, on one occasion (May 2010) speak at a board meeting about a $2,500 advance the studio was asking for Iron Man 2."

"The board did not advance the money, and we obtained it from a private party," he said Tuesday.

"That was the only time it ever came up."

Alfred Telles gave the example of a studio requiring a $4,000 deposit, then the theater did $3,500 worth of business.

"They will give you a credit, but they will never give you a refund," he said.

On the subject of the $6,500 owed the film booker, Gladys Olsen asked, "Then if he takes over the theater, Truschke is going to have to clear it up?"

The board members nodded in agreement.

Museum member Bill Nigh suggested offering live theater performances in the movie theater.

"We could have local people trying out for parts," said Nigh, adding, "It's just an idea, but it entertained a poor community in Lincoln, Neb."

Larry Schultz replied that is "one of the things Rex Allen Jr. proposed," and Barb Bugle added, "That's exactly what he was suggesting."

He added that Rex Allen Jr. has the rights to more than 500 old movies.

A member of the audience, who said he had been too young to have seen John Wayne movies in theaters as a child, would "mortgage my truck to see Hondo on the big screen."

Schultz said, "That's what we're trying to do is diversify," adding that the Board plans to "put together a committee to figure out what we want to do over there," pointing in the direction of the theater.

Earlier in the meeting, Delcie Schultz had announced that Rex Jr. was going to be at the Christmas Parade, though "if after what I read today (Wednesday) I hope people won't throw rocks at him when they see him."

Referring to the editorial in the Nov. 16 edition of the Range News, Alfred Telles said, "We have the tape recording, and he never said that."

"That was second hand information, and he never said that," said Larry Schultz.

Olsen added, "Since the newspaper's here now, they can get the facts straight."

The Range News asked Larry Schultz Tuesday morning about the opportunity to listen to the tape of the Oct. 19 meeting.

Schultz replied that he and the Telles' are out of state, so there was no one in town that could play the tape for us until next week.

Asked if the Range News would be permitted to listen to it then, Schultz replied, "I don't know, we'll talk to Alfred and Jennifer about it."

In the Oct. 19 meeting minutes distributed by Jennifer Telles, Rex Jr. stated that "the reason that he has continued to help the museum to stay open was because he wanted to preserve the image and heritage of his father."

Allen said that he would "really encourage the board to consider expanding the parameters of what the Museum represents. He would like to see the Museum offer more."

"Rex stated that he would like to see south half end to become a location for the Hall of Fame and see it move into its own area, and the North half of the theater, the larger theater he would like it to become a performing theater."

According to the minutes, Allen said he has his father's films as well as those of Gene Autry, and knows of acts that would love to perform in Willcox.

Allen also made other suggestions, such as expanding the product line carried at the Museum, such as those of artists like the other Singing Cowboys; and consignment items.

He also suggested enhanced security measures; and more promotion of the Museum; and creating a Facebook account.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, the Board entered into executive session to discuss "personnel and legal matters."

After reconvening, the Board appointed Gail Martin, Donna Schmelzla, and Barb Bugle to fill its three vacant seats.

Jennifer Telles said, "We are very encouraged about our new members, and we are going to formulate committees - one of them on the theater."
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 26 Nov 2011 18:18 #37458

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Re. Forest City, Iowa

This might be a decent place to operate labor of love. 4500 population with closest major competitor over 30 mins away. Unfortunately not many photos on the web of the place. Can't find any listing for the place as mentioned. So if this place is actively being sold right now, the realtor is doing a pathetic job.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 10 Dec 2011 15:53 #37595

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Wanted: New caretakers for Cochranton movie theater

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COCHRANTON -- Grace Motzing remembers dreaming that people were popping open umbrellas to stay dry while watching movies inside the Iris Theatre.

The theater's roof was leaking. There were "buckets everywhere" to catch the water. And there was no money to pay for a new roof.

"I was so worried about it that I dreamt of it at night," Grace Motzing said.

The roof got fixed. Other bills somehow got paid and the little theater on West Adams Street in Cochranton remained open.

Now Grace and her husband, Jack, who have operated the movie house as a kind of community ministry for 41 years, pray that someone will continue to keep it open.

Jack Motzing is 83, Grace is 80. Jack Motzing still orders films for the theater and shows them four to six nights a week. Grace Motzing sells tickets and concessions at every show. The theater shows Christian and family films only and doesn't charge anyone who can't afford to pay the modest ticket price.

"We've been thinking that one of these days we'll have to close because of our age," Jack Motzing said.

"We're not going to be here in 20 years. We've been praying a lot about what's going to happen to the theater," Grace Motzing said.

A community group that's come forward to learn theater operations, help to operate it and raise money to maintain it could be the miracle the Motzings have been praying for. But they wonder if committees and fundraisers can provide the thousands of hours and thousands of dollars that it takes to keep the theater's marquis lit.

"It doesn't come easy," Jack Motzing said.

The Iris Theatre was built in 1947 by contractor W.L. Dunn, who named it for his wife and opened it on her birthday. But the theater never prospered and closed by the mid-1960s. It remained closed until Dunn agreed to allow the Motzings to operate it, rent-free, in 1971.

The Motzings weren't interested in making money from the theater. They saw it instead as an opportunity for ministry.

"I used to tell my Sunday school class that we weren't being aggressive enough in putting God back into our society and making this a better place," Jack Motzing said. "They'd say, 'We're only a small group of people; what are we supposed to do?' But it bugged me."

Jack Motzing had seen a Billy Graham film called the "Restless Ones" in Franklin a few years before and been thrilled by the "ton of people" who accepted Christ right there in the front of the theater afterward.

"I never forgot that," he said.

He talked about the movie again -- and the need to do something in the community again -- one evening while drinking coffee at the kitchen table after chores on their dairy farm. Grace, who was washing dishes, threw the dish rag at him.

"She said, 'Then you either do something or shut your mouth,'" Jack Motzing said.

He called the Billy Graham organization, rented a movie and arranged to show it at the Grange Hall, where he invited viewers to accept Christ after each showing.

But attendance for that and later films was sparse. The Motzings decided the movies would do better at a real theater and approached Dunn about renting the Iris.

They began showing family films to subsidize the less well-attended Christian movies and later bought the theater from Dunn's estate.

"It was never a moneymaking proposition. The theater never made a dime. But there were two years that it almost broke even," Jack Motzing said.

When ticket and concession sales didn't cover expenses, the couple chipped in some of the money that they earned from their farm, from Jack Motzing's job as a clerk with the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad and from Grace Motzing's career selling real estate. Profits from a Sunoco station that they owned for a time also helped support the Iris.

A Meadville contractor replaced the building's roof, donating most of the cost. Donations from local churches paid the rest.

An anonymous benefactor in 2009 donated $10,000 to start a matching fund for the theater. The fund raised $23,000 -- enough to pay off a large part of the theater's debt and cover the cost to hook it up to a new sewer line.

When the building's original air-conditioning unit broke down soon afterward, Grace Motzing paid the $6,000 replacement cost with a check from a recent real estate sale. She still works for Howard Hanna.

"Whenever we couldn't pay the bills, something miraculous happened," Grace Motzing said.

Like the night they were about $70 short and a steer broke through their fence and walked up the road to the Motzing farm.

A young man passing by on his way to a date insisted on putting the steer in their barn and did, over Grace Motzing's protests, so that it wouldn't be hit by a car.

When calls determined that no neighboring farm was missing an animal, especially not one that was "a little beat up, like it might have been abused," the Motzings agreed to sell the steer to a buyer who called out of the blue. The buyer reasoned that the steer had jumped off a cattle truck on Route 19, about three miles away, and wandered to their farm.

"It paid for a lot of staples at the theater," Jack Motzing said.

Members of the Cochranton Area Redevelopment Efforts, or C.A.R.E., Group, the community organization planning to keep the theater open, are confident that they can do just that, said David Przybylek, the organization's treasurer.

"We're learning the ropes from Jack and Grace, raising the money for theater improvements and putting together volunteers to help run the theater. And the response so far has been great," Przybylek said.

Looking back, the Motzings wonder how they did all of that and more for so long.

"We didn't have much money. It seemed like we lived paycheck to paycheck all our lives," Jack Motzing said. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's been a wonderful journey for us."

The couple still receives letters from across the country thanking them for the Iris, and often for the introduction to Christ.

"Anytime we'd be down one day, we'd get a letter saying, 'Don't ever close that place,' and explaining what the Lord had done for them in their lives," Grace Motzing said. "And that's what really counts."

VALERIE MYERS can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 10 Dec 2011 18:03 #37597

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A very inspirational story Jack. Thanks.
Bob Allen
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 10 Dec 2011 19:06 #37598

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revrobor wrote:
A very inspirational story Jack. Thanks.

I knew you would like this one. They are closed on Sundays.

BTW, glad you posted. I was getting a little worried about you. Seems like it has been a while.
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Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 10 Dec 2011 19:09 #37600

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I'm still around Jack and still trying to figure out what I'm going to do when I grow up. I wish I was able to go back there and take over the place for them. I doubt that I'd remain closed on Sundays. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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