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Residents come together to save historic theater

Elder Theatre at risk of closing without new projection equipment


The Elder Theatre in Jackson Center could close if the owners cannot raise $66,000 to buy new digital projectors and sound equipment by the end of the year. The community has come together to support the project, having raised $11,000 to date, and several fundraisers are planned for the near future. (EXAMINER PHOTO | JOHN KROUSKOP)

The Holland Theatre is no longer the only historic theater area residents are trying to save.

Members of the Jackson Center community have come together to support the 70-year-old Elder Theatre as changes in the film industry are threatening the continued existence of the small town movie theater.

“It’s important for the whole community there,” said Ryan Sosby, whose aunt and uncle Rodney and Becky Miller own the theater. “It’s always been there for the community and the community has always supported it.”

The theater may not be able to remain open after the end of this year as film studios are switching exclusively to digital releases of movies and film reels are becoming antiquated.

The change requires any theaters still using reel-to-reel technology to install new digital projectors and sound equipment, which carries a price tag of $66,000, Mr. Sosby said.

And members of the community have begun digging into their pockets to support the effort to keep the theater alive in the village.

One young girl even showed up with the contents of her piggy bank ready to chip in.

 “The fact that the little girl of all the things she wanted to do with her money, she wanted to keep coming and watching movies,” Mr. Sosby said. “That really touched the heck out of us. Nothing is too small. Everything is helping.”

To date, the theater has raised $11,000 for the cause and has two upcoming fundraisers set.

The first is an April 12 trivia contest at the theater. Teams of four to six people pay $5 per person to take part in the 10-round contest. They will also have a silent auction of themed baskets and movie posters.

The event begins at 7 p.m. and teams should register in advance by sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The second fundraising event is an all-night movie marathon June 8 featuring either the Marvel movies Iron Man 1 through 3 and the Avengers or the Twilight saga movies.

Donations can also be made directly to the effort by buying a $25 donation card that entitles the buyer to two movie tickets, two medium drinks and a large popcorn.

Seat sponsorships are also available for $100 and cash donations can be made at the theater or by mailing a check to Digital Campaign Fund, P.O. Box 688, Jackson Center, OH 45334.

If the theater owners are unable to reach the goal and close the theater, cash donations will be returned to donors beginning Dec. 31.

The single-screen theater was built by Elder Duff and opened Nov. 29, 1942, with admission prices of 30 cents for adults and 10 cents for children, according to the Web site It was the first theater in the state of Ohio to feature a cry room with soundproof glass and rocking chairs for mothers with babies.

The Brown family bought the theater in 1950 and continued to operate it until 1981 when Mr. and Mrs. Miller bought it. Since then, the interior has been maintained, including the installation of 287 new seats and wall coverings.

The projector, however, is still the original one installed in 1942.

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