Bonham Theatre to celebrate one-year anniversary of reopening

FAIRBURY – On Sept. 27, 2017, nearly five years after the Bonham Cinema closed its doors, it reopened as an entirely volunteer, non-profit organization for the local area.

The Theatre will mark the occasion by showing Mission Impossible: Fallout this weekend. The show times are Fri., Sept. 28 at 7 p.m., Sat., Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. and Sun., Sept. 30 at 3 and 6 p.m.

Bonham Theatre will also be showing the Nebraska Football game against Purdue at 2:30 p.m., but they do not have a liquor license this week. The theatre has shown every Husker Football game this season so far.

A board of directors continues to oversee the theatre’s day-to-day operation, but it depends on a rotating base of over 175 volunteers to run the concession, program the movies, and clean the facility each week during its Friday, Saturday, and Sunday showings.

“Without our volunteers that show up each week we would not be able to keep going”, emphasizes Jason Trimm, Bonham Volunteer Coordinator.

In the last year, the Bonham Theatre has shown over 100 movies from children’s films and blockbuster features to zombie classics, chick flicks, and action-thrillers.

Brooke Schawb, the Bonham Theatre Project President, says special events have been especially successful in the past year.

“In addition to our regular weekend movies, we’ve kept busy with special events too,” Schwab said. “It is necessary to supplement to be successful. The Kids Summer Series was a huge success this past summer and we hope that the holiday season will be as busy as it was in 2017.”

When the theatre closed in August 2012 due to the costs of transitioning to a digital format, a group of citizens met several times in late summer and fall to help navigate a path to reopening it.

The journey involved forming a non-profit entity, buying the theatre from foreclosure, and a great deal of fundraising.  Demolition, new architectural plans, remodeling, meeting fire and handicap accessibility codes also had to be completed.

Over $800,000 was raised to get the Bonham opened again. The goal was always to reopen in time to celebrate the Bonham’s 91st birthday on Sept. 27, 2017.

“We really pushed to be able to have something on the Bonham’s birthday. We were thrilled by the huge turn for the Birthday Bash. It was very exciting and emotional,” said Diane Schutt, who’s the Bonham Theatre Project Vice-President.

 Opened originally onSept. 27, 1926, the Bonham Theatre was named after local banker Luther Bonham for his help in securing the support of Universal Pictures in funding the original theater.

Over the next 91 years, the Bonham survived the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. It also moved from silent film to talkies, black-and-white to color format, and even made a comeback after a fire in 1990.

The theatre project board of directors plans to re-open the second floor, so the theatre can once again show two features each week, but there’s no timetable on when that will be. All renovation costs will need to be covered first, according to Schwab.

Phase three will be the transformation of the stage area for live performances, community theater programs and more. This will include full stage lighting and sound systems. No timeline or budget has been set for this phase, either.

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