Endangered Hometown Theatre has Lots of Friends

By Eric Olson

November 14, 2013 Updated Nov 14, 2013 at 12:02 PM EDT

KENDALLVILLE, Indiana--Kendallville Indiana at the turn of the last century…honest, hardworking, uncomplicated. The way we like to think an American town should be. It was on Kendallville’s picturesque main street in the fall of 1890 that a new attraction was born, the magnificent Strand Theatre. Traveling entertainers would arrive by train or buggy, stay in local hotels and perform on stage at night…acts like The Great Mead and the Casket of Fire, sharing the bill with Fatty Arbuckle movies. The Strand is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theatres in the country but the curtain is threatening to drop on its long run. Movies are switching to digital format and the Strand has to replace its old projectors with digital machines, a one hundred thousand dollar expense the owners say they can’t afford.

It appears Kendallville isn’t ready to lose its historic theatre. The Strand’s plight has sparked a grassroots effort to raise that hundred thousand. Champs and Tramps Grooming is donating five bucks from each pet grooming to the Save the Strand fund. Owner Judy Guthrie grew up in Kendallville, enjoyed the Strand all her life.

“A lot of high school kids have jobs there, it helps support the community,” she says, “and he gets good first run movies usually.”

Kevin Sabrosky owns Antiques and More on Main Street. He says businesses all over town are chipping in.

“i know that a couple of years ago the city had Hyatt and Palmer come in and do a ‘how to revitalize downtown’. Their key was do not lose the Strand Theatre!”

The response has been remarkable. In its first week Save the Strand is a third of the way toward its hundred thousand dollar goal, a striking accomplishment in tough economic times. But no surprise to anyone familiar with this honest, hardworking, uncomplicated corner of 21 Country. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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