Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Historical Rex Theatre up for sale
is shown in this 1920 picture of Orofino as the first building on the left-hand side of the street across from the Ford dealership. Rex Theatre
By Alannah Allbrett
in Orofino is not officially listed for sale with a realtor, but owner, Chris Wagner, says he will sell it if the right offer comes along. “I have thought a lot about it. I am a painter by trade, and I have a few rentals to manage and other things that fill my time up.” Wagner has to make a 120 mile (round trip) trek to Orofino each week. “I’m tired of bringing the film down. I just think somebody could do a better job at it at this point.” Rex Theatre
The Rex has been in Wagner’s family since his grandfather, Al Wagner, Sr., purchased it in 1955. Wagner also owns the Blue Fox Theatre and Sunset Auto View, both in Grangeville, The Rex has recently undergone renovations. Wagner said it has a new roof, furnace, carpet, seats, and has been painted. He’s asking $159,000 for the historical movie house.
The Rex is Orofino’s first theatre. It was built in 1914 in its present location at 156 Johnson Avenue. But it looked very different from today. To start with, there was a vacant lot on the left of it with a large barn in the distant background. To the right, facing on a diagonal, was a little gas station or “filling station” as they used to be called.
Theaters are universally switching to digital format, requiring costly new equipment. Wagner reports that film will not be made anymore once everything goes digital within the next couple of years. He said no one knows for sure when the cutoff will be.
Digital movies take a couple of hours to download, according to Wagner, but one doesn’t have to deal with the “messy film.” He has a couple of friends in the business who have made the conversion. “It’s pretty cool,” he said.
Wagner plans on purchasing the computerized digital equipment for his Grangeville theatre. It requires a digital processor, a laptop computer, a content box, and a digital projector. “It’s pretty good sized and weighs about 40 to 50 pounds” Wagner said referring to the stacked computer components.
Movie studios have financing plans for new equipment if a theatre wants to convert. “You have to sign up and order the equipment; you initially have to take out loans to make it happen. Supposedly the film studios will pay 100 percent over a 10-year period,” said Wagner.
When asked if going digital helps a movie theatre get top run movies when first introduced, Wagner said owners have to commit to running a movie for a two week period. “They give a two week minimum on movies like War Horse or Mission Impossible. In a small town like Orofino, you reach a saturation point (where everyone has seen it) within one week.”
Practically, movies could also be downloaded directly to Orofino. When asked if that would solve his commuting problem and keep the theatre open, Wagner said, “I have to see how it works here” [Grangeville], not ruling out the possibility that digital format might be just the answer for keeping the theatre going from a distance.