Stettler’s silver screen will soon be aglow once again, thanks to a local family that hopes to have the Jewel Theatre back up and running by the end of November.
The theatre, which closed its doors in mid-August, has been purchased by Stettler residents Byron and Sonya Geddes, who plan to operate it as a family business.
“There’s been lots of speculation, but it’s going to be a theatre again,” said Byron Geddes, explaining that he had heard many people comment on how much they missed going to the movies.
“We felt that the community needed a theatre again,” he said. “I think there was a real void in the community when it closed.”
The current plan is to have what Byron called a “soft opening” the week of Nov. 21 through 27, with the grand opening taking place during Moonlight Madness on Nov. 28.
Between now and then, the Geddes family and others will be hard at work doing some extensive renovations, giving a “full facelift” to the lobby area with fresh paint and carpeting, and a new concession area.
Byron said they’ll also give the auditorium a new coat of paint and “lots of cleanup, lots of cleanup.” He wouldn’t say what would be playing at the premiere but promised it would be a crowd-pleaser.
“I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag,” he said, adding, “It’s going to be a long-awaited movie.”
The Jewel originally opened in 1952 and can seat 309 patrons in its single auditorium. Its most recent owner, Landmark Cinemas, closed the theatre this summer, with executives saying the company had decided to move on from some smaller markets.
While the theatre itself has a lengthy history in Stettler, Byron said it was recently outfitted with modern digital projection equipment.
“We’re on a huge learning curve right now,” said Byron, who is employed in the oil industry. He added that he’s working with a booking agent who deals with the major movie studios, determining what releases will come to town.
Byron, Sonya and their children — Alex, 15, and Rogan, 13 — said they’re excited about taking this project on as a family, but they credited Byron with the initial idea of buying the theatre.
Sonya, who teaches at Stettler Elementary School, said they’ve had lots of encouragement from friends and neighbours, who look forward to having the theatre back in town.
“My Grade 2 class is excited, too,” she said. “They’re pumped.”
Alex and Rogan, who were hard at work alongside their parents last weekend, said some of their classmates at school are excited by the prospect of available jobs at the theatre.
Byron said he is in the process of hiring a manager, and added that he expects to keep a staff of six to eight employees.
While maintaining a profitable business is important, Byron also said giving back to the community is a priority for himself and his family.
Both he and his wife were raised in Stettler, and they said they’ve already seen the support of friends and volunteers who have lent a hand to the renovations.
“The community’s really banded together to help us out, which is awesome,” said Byron. “I’m glad people are excited.”