The Optimists in Arcola have been working towards renovating and restoring the MacMurray Theatre, through fundraising over the past three years. Though there is still a little more work they want to do to the theatre much of the inside renovations have been accomplished this past summer and the MacMurray Theatre will be opened on Friday, Oct. 18, for all to enjoy this year.
“It took three years to do the projection system and all the seats, then we still have one more year of fundraising for the outside, so that will be next summer’s project, doing the exterior of the theatre and raising money for it,” Blake Brownridge, President of the Optimists, explained.
So far, Brownridge says that the Optimists have used fundraising methods such as the concerts they hold and their main fundraiser, the annual snow mobile rally. In all they were able to raise nearly $150,000, which has been put into the digital projection equipment, new seating, carpeting, and paint.
In addition to these usual fundraisers the Optimists also held “Sell the Seats” where people could “buy” one of the old seats, essentially sponsoring a new one though the original design from 1946, which they have returned to does allow them nine extra seats making a total of 209 seats. The new ones also come with cup holders, which is quite exciting as the sloped floor often came with a knocked over pop that trickled all the way to the front. The sticky messes will hopefully now be avoided.
The Optimists will also be establishing a plaque with the names of those who bought seats to be displayed as a thank you for their help in raising money for the project.
In all the Optimists were hard at work tearing out old seats and renovating the inside this summer to bring the best movie experience to everyone in the area this season.
“So, when the theatre was built this was the original seating plan,” Brownridge said. “[W]e had our sound curtains all the way to the bottom… so, a lady in town cut them all off and tailored them. And we raised them all so we could move our seats against the walls and painted the walls behind them and we’ve completely repainted everything.”
New carpeting was also laid and the floors painted before the seats were installed, while the Optimists were also able to install new speakers.
Having sat empty for a number of years the MacMurray Theatre gained revitalization through the work of the Optimists and it has grown ever since.
“The Optimists started the theatre,” Brownridge explained. “The theatre sat empty and a few of the Optimist members decided it would be something that would be well used in the community, so to the best of my knowledge the Optimists approached Town Council and said, ‘Look we want to open this back up as a non-profit, do it so there’s something available in the town.’ And I think it’s snowballed. I think it’s every bit as good of a theatre as Estevan, Weyburn around here. It’s got the new digital system, it’s got the brand new seats, and what more do you need right?”
Overall it’s something for all ages to enjoy during the cold winter months when often it can be difficult to find a fun activity.
“It’s a good place for kids to come in the winter time… we get the SRC from the school to help us and it keeps the kids interested in it,” Brownridge stated. “Some of the kids have ran the movie projector and stuff too over the years, so they get to do other stuff like that too if they want.”
The Optimists invite everyone out for their 2013 opening this weekend with the showing of “The Butler,” starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and John Cusack. The movie revolves around a man named Cecil Grimes who serves eight presidents during his tenure as White House butler during the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and other major events during this tumultuous time in history.
Movie schedules will be out in communities within the next week while the schedule is also available online at, arcolaoptimist.com/mac.html.
In addition to movies, the Optimists will be bringing in more Saskatchewan talent this year beginning with Brad Johner and the Johner Boys on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9.
“He [Brad Johner] grew up in the Midale area, so a lot of people from here are kind of familiar with him and it should be a good show,” Brownridge stated. “He’ll be here for two nights, so we’re all looking forward to that because the last concert went over so well. We’re hoping this one does too.”
Tickets for the Johner concert will be available this weekend or through contacting one of the Optimist members in Arcola.
Looking forward to another successful movie season the Optimists are excited to bring a big city movie going feel to Arcola and surrounding area.