More than a movie.
That’s a slogan used by the Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, a city about 75 minutes from New Castle. Some local officials believe that community’s example could help save a facility here near and dear to local hearts.
Transformation of an aging yet historic theatre into a multi-faceted facility that not only shows movies but also hosts theatrical workshops and other arts-related events have helped save that community’s downtown, according to Carrie Barrett of New Castle Main Street.
“Frankly, there was no downtown in Franklin before the theatre reopened,” Barrett said.
Barrett and the New Castle Main Street board are still in process of finalizing details of a lease that will transfer operation of the Castle Theatre from private operation to the non-profit group. Barrett said New Castle Main Street has been offered an 18-month lease of the Castle Theatre building, which is owned by the Nellie Catherine Bundy Bailey Trust. Today, JP Morgan Chase Bank is the trustee.
Barrett said the board would be more comfortable with a 12-month lease.
“I am waiting on the property management company’s response to that,” Barrett said. “If they don’t agree, I’m not sure what the board will want to do.”
Barrett said she remained optimistic that things will work out and that a theater that opened here in 1935 will continue to operate using a model similar to Franklin.
“The theatre there has been run by a non-profit group for more than a decade,” Barrett said. “They do classic movies and are open on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Creative planning has helped Franklin stage some unique events.
“Over the Christmas season, that theatre brings about 20,000 people into downtown Franklin,” Barrett said. “Last Christmas, they showed holiday movies like Chevy Chase and ‘Christmas Vacation,’ Will Ferrell and ‘Elf,’ ‘A Christmas Story’ and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’ Their Christmas movies are big draw. They have sold out of some showings.”
Barrett said the Franklin community was also planning to pair the new Mary Poppins movie with the original.
“I feel like this a new wave in downtown movie theatres,” Barrett said. “The current model doesn’t work like it used to, especially for a small town.”
Barrett said similar efforts with downtown theatres are either under way or being considered in Rushville, North Vernon and Madison.
If things work out and Main Street does take over the Castle, Barrett said she envisions “a little bit of a mix” between first-run and classic movies along with other local events utilizing the seldom-seen stage behind the big screen.
“I think what’s going to be really important is that it be a community effort,” Barrett said. “We’re going to need volunteers to help staff this.”
But Barrett finds lots of reasons to be optimistic in a downtown New Castle that has experienced positive momentum in recent years.
“It’s an optimistic time,” she said. “People are working together. I think good things are happening.”