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Friends of the Midwest Theater reaches milestone
November 27, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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It was 15 years ago when a group of people with a fond remembrance of the closed Midwest Theater decided to bring the theater back to life in downtown Scottsbluff.

In November 1998, Friends of the Midwest Theater was formed, which led to the reopening of the theater that Thanksgiving weekend. The first movie to show was a holiday favorite: “Home Alone.”

To celebrate, the Midwest will show “Home Alone” again on Friday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. The next evening, also at 7:30, the Bing Crosby classic “White Christmas” will be on the screen.
Both films will be shown in brilliant digital restoration and performances are free to the public as a thank-you for 15 years of support.

Over the past 15 years, the Midwest Theater has expanded its programming to include not just weekend movies, but also documentaries, special events, film festivals and live performances.

“We wouldn’t exist today without all of our patrons and volunteers and continually help us operate day to day,” said Midwest executive director Billy Estes. “And I can’t give enough thanks to all the donors who supported our capital campaign 10 years ago and the theater’s digital conversion this past summer.”

Through donors, the theater board has been able to invest about $1.8 million into the Midwest and its adjoining building. And the board still has three members who were there from the beginning: founding president Tammy Viesman, Teresa Swank and Sandy Schon.

“As long as we can continue to have community support, there should be no reason the Midwest wouldn’t be here to operate well into the future.”

The Midwest Theater was built in 1946 in the Art Moderne architectural style. After it closed in 1996, it was donated to the Oregon Trail Community Foundation and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

In 1998, Friends of the Midwest Theater launched a $1.3 million capital campaign to make extensive renovations the theater and marquee, making the building handicap accessible. Last summer, they raised $200,000 to upgrade the theater with a Digital Projection System and Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound.

The board’s mission is to preserve and enhance the historic Midwest Theater for present and future generations by offering mainstream and specialty films, performing and visual arts, as well as school and community educational programming.
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