Rotarians get theater history

Staff report

SIDNEY — Raise the Roof for the Arts Executive Director Sarah Barr addressed the Sidney Rotary Club at its weekly meeting, Jan. 9.

Barr provided a brief history of the theatre, the efforts to preserve the structure and the role the theatre can play in the revitalization of the downtown.

Barr told the Rotarians that the building was originally constructed in 1921 by C.B. DeWeese as the Majestic Theatre. It opened, Sept. 9, 1921, with a touring production of “Robin Hood.” The theater has had a number owners and a number of names over the years. For some years, it was owned by Warner Brothers. It was one of the theaters the production company was forced to sell as a result of a 1948 Supreme Court ruling, United States v. Paramount Pictures.

For several years after, the theater was owned by Chakeres Theatres.

“Most Sidney residents will recall the irresistible smell of buttery popcorn wafting through the theatre during those years as they settled into their seats to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster,” Barr said.

Older Sidney residents will remember stage performances before the theater was made a triplex. A few of those who performed at the theater were Marian Anderson, the Vienna Boys Choir, the New York City Opera and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Barr said.

After Chakeres closed the theatre in 2004, it was purchased by a private individual who sold it in 2009 Raise the Roof for the Arts.

“Sidney has a beautiful courthouse and downtown district that includes a Civil War memorial building, a famous Louis Sullivan bank, and the Art Deco-styled Spot restaurant,” Barr said. “Soon the Historic Sidney Theatre will join those important downtown elements.

Barr pointed out that many have identified the Historic Sidney Theatre project as being an important part of the revitalization of downtown. “Raise the Roof for the Arts has the distinct privilege and responsibility of being part of this positive change,” Barr said.

Barr told the Rotarians that thoughtful consideration was given to the restoration process. “After careful study, a fundraising goal of $3.5 million was set. As I stand here today, it is with great pride that I tell you that Raise the Roof for the Arts has raised 85 percent of its $3.5 million goal. Plans are being developed to capture the last 15 percent needed to finish the final stages of renovation,” Barr said.

She discussed what renovations have been complete and what are still to be done, talked about plans for future programming and noted the impact that theaters have had on the arts through history.

“Throughout all of history, there are a few common threads,” Barr stated. “They include human interaction, war and the fight for survival … and art. We all need a place to unwind, and there is nothing like a live performance to do just that. A place to sit back, relax and enjoy the arts,” Barr concluded.

During the business meeting, Justin Griffis was sworn in as a new member of the Sidney Rotary Club. Kent Craver, Jane Gariety and current Sidney Rotary President Aliana Mabelitini were presented with Paul Harris Awards for their contributions to the Rotary Foundation.

Staff report