It was a packed house for the Jewel Theatre’s grand re-opening last weekend — and new owners Byron and Sonya Geddes couldn’t have been happier.
Mockingjay — Part 1, the third film in the Hunger Games series starring Jennifer Lawrence, was the feature presentation on Friday, Nov. 28, filling the local cinema almost to capacity.
All the available tickets for the first showing on Friday were sold, and almost all of the theatre’s 309 seats were filled, said Byron, adding that a few guests were unable to attend owing to the blustery weather outside.
He said they were “relieved” and pleased with the successful turnout, while adding, “You can’t do it without good help.”
Tickets to Friday’s movie included popcorn, candy and drinks, and Byron said it had been a little tricky to keep up with the demand.
“I started making popcorn at 2:30 this afternoon, and we’re still catching up,” he said with a smile, adding that they still had to be prepared for a later showing on Friday.
“The community has (shown) huge support,” said Sonya. “We’ve heard nothing but positive comments.”
As patrons found their seats for the 7 p.m. showing, the Jazz Guys played seasonal tunes and other favourites from the front of the theatre.
Bandleader Eric Rahn was heard to comment later that the band members had to put down gloves under their chair legs to keep from sliding down the sloped floor during their performance.
Mayor Dick Richards was on hand for the ribbon cutting just before the movie, and said he was pleased to see local residents coming together in support.
He said the theatre has long been an important social gathering place for Stettler residents, but as is often the case, “you don’t know what you have until you lose it.”
Those comments were echoed by guest Stephanie Hadley, who was seated in the second row with her husband Layvon and their sons Beau and Stephen.
Hadley said the family lives a block away and would often walk over to catch a show at the Jewel.
“When it closed, we were pretty sad,” she remarked, adding that they’re “super excited” to have the theatre back.
Draws were held for prizes, and patrons were treated to cupcakes provided by Today’s Sweet Cakery in Castor, which also donated a larger cake adorned with a replica of the Jewel Theatre’s outdoor sign in honour of the celebration.
The theatre, first opened in 1952, closed on Aug. 15 as its owner, Landmark Cinemas, sought to move on from some of its smaller markets.
The Jan Cinema in Grande Prairie, closed the same month, was another casualty of this policy.
Prior to its closure, the Jewel was outfitted with digital projection equipment. Over the month of November, the Geddes family, friends and volunteers poured hundreds of hours into cleaning and redecorating the auditorium, lobby and concession area.
The Jewel had a “soft” opening from Nov. 21 to 27, showing the films The Boxtrolls and The Best of Me, with the grand opening coinciding with Moonlight Madness.
Byron Geddes said the theatre currently has nine part-time employees on staff, as well as general manager Rose Chapman and marketing manager Cody Borek.