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Curtain going down on Colusa Theater?
Life of movie house may depend on finding variety of uses
The Colusa Theater has played a big part in the downtown for decades, but the popular weekend entertainment spot may be shutting its doors.
After a dismal summer movie season, theater owners Mike Wilkinson and Chris Middleton said they may have to throw in the towel.
"Turning the lights off at the theater is like turning the lights off in Colusa," Wilkinson said Tuesday.
The movie lined up for Friday night will go on as planed but future movies are questionable, Wilkinsen said.
"The movie industry is depressed," Wilkinson said. "Even the top 10 movies of the year (nationwide) saw a 5 percent drop in attendance."
Big blockbuster hits and 3-D features, while they command a higher ticket price, haven't helped the industry.
"We're just getting more money from the same people," he said.
Wilkinson said the downturn in the economy and competition from the Yuba City movie cineplexes are the major factors for closing.
"It will be sad to see the theater close, but it's not the only Colusa business that is going to disappear this year," said Colusa Councilwoman Kay Hosmer. "There are going to be more."
Wilkinson said the movie theater has been struggling in the recession since 2007.
"It is what it is," Wilkinson said. "If we could do something different, we would."
Wilkinson is looking at several possible private and public funding sources to keep the building for music events, private parties, special events — like the Film Commission gala this spring — and a possible part-time movie schedule.
"We're definitely exploring all our alternatives," Wilkinson said. "We have a music event scheduled for Sept. 23."
The Colusa Theater was built in 1873 for live entertainment, according to local historian John Morton, and was one of two theaters that operated in Colusa for some time.
The GEM theater was just down the street, where the Mi Ranchito Mexican restaurant and Kelleher Paint store are at the corner of Market and Fourth streets, Morton said.
Since its first film showing in 1908, the Colusa Theater has been a staple for entertainment that will be greatly missed, according to Morton.
"It's the only theater in the county," Morton said. "It would be a shame for it to close."
The Colusa Theater had been closed for about six months when Wilkinson purchased it in 1996.
Since then, the theater has undergone several upgrades, including new 3-D screens last spring.
Wilkinson said he is in the process of developing a lounge and screening room, but at the same time, the building needs a new roof.
"We're pretty much out of resources," he said. "Banks consider movie theaters a high risk."
If the theater closes, either temporarily or permanently, Wilkinson and Middleton said they will focus their efforts on the Riverside Lanes bowling center, which has had better success during the tough economic times.
"We're going to be expanding our video game area and trying out new things," Wilkinson said. "We also have a pretty strong winter league forming."
Contact Susan Meeker at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.