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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Preview of a theater: Renovation work underway

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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With renovations of the Royal III movie theater in downtown Le Mars well underway, worker Matt Fornter, of Glidden, removes a wall to make way for a larger lobby, concession and restroom area at the front of the building. Owner Eric Hilsabeck said the rebuilding process should start soon, with an opening date anticipated in early spring.
Right now, Le Mars' movie theater looks less like a theater and more like a tornado site.

Under renovations to become an updated theater, the Royal III is being cleared out to make way for improvements.

The lobby has been gutted -- the walls, ceiling and carpet have been removed. The three auditoriums have a dwindling numbers of theater seats in them, and the old projection equipment is gone.

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"Reconstruction will start as early as next week or the first week in February," said Eric Hilsabeck, who purchased the theater earlier this year.

In the meantime, the renovation crew has discovered pieces of the past in the walls and under the carpet of the theater.

Matt Fortner, of Glidden, said renovating the building is like looking at its history from the inside out.

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"It's a 100-year-old building, and they must have added on or remodeled every 10-20 years, so you can see something from each window of time," he said.

The building shows signs that, at one point, the front doors might have been inset with an outdoor overhang. And Hilsabeck said he found a wooden theater stage for plays behind the movie screens.

Underneath the front lobby's carpet is a tile floor featuring a large picture of the comedy and tragedy drama masks -- one grinning and one frowning -- and the words "Royal Twin."

"It must be from back when there were only two screens," Hilsabeck said.

He asked his designers whether the tile floor could be refurbished, but they told him it would be almost impossible to save.

"They think the words and picture are painted on, so anything we'd use to take the carpet glue off would take them off, too," he said.

In the walls, workers have found old candy wrappers -- some with candy still in them. Hilsabeck said he might frame some of the old candy wrappers and hang them in the renovated theater.

They found a cassette tape of music from the 1980s stuck in the wall. And a wooden sign advertising a 1972 comedy-horror flick "The Folks at the Red Wolf Inn" was stuck under the carpet.

Hilsabeck said several people have stopped by to purchase the red cushioned theater seats for their home theater room or for video gaming.

People can still buy the theater chairs for $8 each. Those interested can stop by the theater, Hilsabeck said.

Along with the interesting finds, the theater had plenty of materials that just had to be thrown away, Hilsabeck said.

Renovation work has filled up four dumpsters.

And more will be filled before the project is complete, he said.

Already, Hilsabeck's vision for the theater is moving toward reality.

In the new lobby, the bathrooms will be on the south side, where the concession stand used to be. A seating area for movie-goers may also be added there, Hilsabeck said.

To the north in the lobby, where the video rental shop used to be, the new concession stand will be housed.

"We've taken most the walls out, and it gives it a real open feel in here," Hilsabeck said.

New concession equipment will be brought in after the work is finished, he said.

The auditoriums will have new soundproofing added to the ceilings and walls.

Offices for the theater will likely be constructed downstairs, Hilsabeck said.

The movie theater, which has been closed since November 2009, is slated for an early spring opening.


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i have lots of childhood memories of the theatre, the old crying room, the two theatres. when we were little the movie costs 5 cents or a quarter. i can't remember whick. i do know that going was a real treat. we would take ten cents and get a bag of penny candy from Nuebels grocery store because we couldn't afford the movie AND popcorn. Those WERE THE DAYS my friend. thanks for saving the history. for valuing ur heritage. THANKS

-- Posted by dareesa on Tue, Jan 25, 2011, at 10:58 AM

My dad used to manage this theatre when I was a kid. LOTS of good memories & can't wait for it to reopen.

-- Posted by Kidsx4 on Tue, Jan 25, 2011, at 12:21 PM

Will there a be a movie rental place attached to the new theatre? Hollywood video that used to be there actually had a great selection of old school movies.

-- Posted by fleshwound on Tue, Jan 25, 2011, at 3:12 PM

I remember the free matinees on Christmas shopping Saturdays. The place was packed to the rafters with young baby-boomers. Little jawbreakers candy flying through the air. Sticky things on the floor in the dark...

Wonder how I can get in touch with Kidsx4? I used to work there myself and would love to share a chat about it! Or anyone else that would like to. Karmapeacelove@yahoo.com

-- Posted by Steve-O-Rino on Sat, Jan 29, 2011, at 12:57 AM


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