Letter to the Editor

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published in the Crete News, Oct. 23, 2018

Why should we bail out the ISIS Theatre . . . again? What is BRAC? Dude, do I really get to wear a mullet? We have collectively answered these questions over and over in recent weeks so we want to get a few answers out there.

When it was announced that Thom Reeves was going to close the movie theatre, there was a collective gasp. The ISIS has been a part of the Crete landscape for 92 years.

From “Casablana” to “Moana”, many generations have fond memories of watching movies on the big screen in Crete.

There was also an undercurrent of frustration. The community had banded together once before to raise the money needed to convert to the theater to digital media so it could stay open. Gala, Grants . . . these seem to be familiar words. Collectively we already did this once. No one wants to spend money to do the same thing again.

Everyone needs to know that this time, it is being done differently.

Crete isn’t alone in this struggle. This summer, a group of concerned citizens was convened by the City to decide if the theatre can be restructured and remain financially viable. Because involvement from City government has to be a last step in the process and not a first resort, these community members spent some time considering options. Business plans were written, previous financial records were reviewed and budgets were drafted. The work of that committee is done. The lessons we learned in this process are:

  1. More than 30 communities across the state of Nebraska have kept their theatre open by restructuring as nonprofit and volunteer run;
  2. Ticket receipts for the ISIS have consistently covered operating costs on a monthly basis, without wages; and
  3. We are missing so many additional community entertainment opportunities in

Because we believe in Crete and providing entertainment opportunities right here, we have formed the Blue River Arts Council (BRAC).  It has been established as a nonprofit corporation and is in the process of seeking 501(c)(3) recognition. The purpose of the organization is broad. Its success is NOT predicated on saving the ISIS. Instead, it is designed to serve the area by providing art and entertainment-related educational opportunities and performances here in Crete. Think of summer children’s theater, comedians or magicians, art shows. We are a community with more than 120 kids in the high school band, two thriving dance studios and nationally-renowned university theater! We need to celebrate the Arts and work to keep core entertainment activities here.

As a practical matter, we do believe that the quickest way to regularly provide some entertainment in Crete is to reopen the ISIS with a volunteer staff. This isn’t going to be possible without the City’s help. Thom Reeves has agreed to sell the building at the assessed value. Provided the building is purchased, Thom will then gift BRAC all of the personal property and equipment! That includes everything paid for by the community 6 or 7 years ago including the projector, sound system, 3D equipment, and even the 3D silver screen and popcorn machine. Thom has patched holes, greeted move-goers and managed the theatre by himself with a separate full-time job for many years and he is tired and he is done. If the community wants to see the ISIS survive, we need to act quickly.

That is why BRAC is hosting a gala Friday November 9th – the Totally Rad 80’s Prom!! With a successful fund raiser, and the involvement of the City, we will be in a position to renovate the lobby and bathrooms so that we can reopen the theatre by spring. We will also be in a stronger position to apply for grants that would allow us to replace the marquee and provide for the future of the ISIS by buying the building back from the City someday.

In order to act quickly, BRAC has partnered with the Crete Community Foundation for grant applications and for acceptance of gifts larger than $500 which are intended to be tax-deductible. If BRAC can’t maintain operation, all money raised will remain with the Foundation. So this effort is win-win. If we are successful, we become like the 30+ other communities our size in Nebraska with nonprofit theaters. If we aren’t successful, we seek other entertainment opportunities for Crete with the money raised.

We want our children and their friends to be able to head to a movie in town. We believe a city our size needs to have active entertainment opportunities. We don’t need empty buildings and store fronts. Please contact your city council member and encourage them to support this investment in downtown Crete. Consider a financial donation. Attend the Gala November 9th! Contact any of us or find Blue River Arts Council on Facebook for more information. And yes – you can wear your mullet or your best 80’s prom dress if you want to or you can come in jeans and a tshirt. If we don’t take a chance on Crete, who is going to? #communityinmotion

Valerie Andelt
College Fine Arts Degree
CHS Band, Choir, Theater Mom

Kristi Capek
Former ISIS Employee
College Arts Degree and Working Graphic Artist CHS Band, Choir, Theater Mom

Kate Hesser
Vocal Performer
High School Band and Vocal Music Parent of 3 Movie-Going Boys

Lacey Franzen
College Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Music Crete Schools Vocal Music Instructor

Jennifer Robinson
UNL Graduate, Gallup Senior Editor Published Writer
Crete Planning Commission

Shaylene Smith
High School Band, Choir and Theater Doane University Theater Alum
Dance, Theater, Film and Show Choir Mom

Miriam Weber Movie Lover
CHS Band, Choir, Theater Mom

3 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor

  1. City icons that need bailed out. Over the twenty five years that we have lived in Crete there have been many main street iconic businesses and buildings that have fallen to changing times and seasons. I believe that the Isis theater is simply one more example of that. The last “save the Isis” bail out generated great enthusiasm in the community. The belief was that if we only had digital projection and new seats – they will come. Apparently “they” didn’t come in large enough numbers to make a profit. Fast forward to today. Free this, free that, two successful dance studios (which already have access to facilities in Crete for recitals), early out movies and summer children’s movies (which takes enormous supervision), the owner of the building is willing to gift the projection equipment and sell the building to BRAC for assessed value. (not every good deal is a good deal).
    1. has a structural engineer looked at the building?
    2. has a building inspection been done by a licensed building inspector?
    3. has an asbestos abatement company given a price on removing asbestos (my guess is ceiling tiles) material from the building?
    4. has there been three bids on the cost of updating the bathrooms to make them ADA compliant?
    5. is there actually a need for a building space for magicians and comedians in Crete?
    6. much of the arts and entertainment that is mentioned in the article can, and should, be directed to the soon to be completed new city library with a brand new 150 seat community room.
    7. we need to celebrate the arts. what exactly does this mean? in what way do we not celebrate the arts?
    8. has the building been appraised recently?
    9. and the biggest red flag for me is the sense of urgency. (in order to act quickly)
    To be quite clear, I too am an arts lover. Band and music were my best and favorite subjects is school. In fact, I continued to play drums well into my 60’s. Music and arts lasts a lifetime. However, I too have been involved in operating a 501c3 tax exempt non profit organization. One thing I learned is this: they are exactly what they say they are; Non Profit.
    Please slow down and research the building as to the “real” cost of ownership and discuss the possibility of using the new library community room for many of the arts and entertainment you are thinking about.
    To me, this still seems more like a save the theater effort than it is concern about increasing arts and entertainment in Crete.
    Rod Pedersen

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  2. Thank you so much for your thoughts. We are also excited about the new library and meeting room but it won’t be available for some time yet – and it won’t show movies. There will be a video posted here in the next few days that will answer many of your questions about the building structurally. As a committee, we do believe a functional movie theater is a large draw for a community of our size and we are hoping to see the Isis reopened. We also believe the space it offers is uniquely suited to other future endeavors like live shows and children’s theater. We also know that the Isis has covered its costs and could turn a profit if BRAC manages it properly. Please consider coming to the 80’s Prom event so that you can tour the facility and hear live entertainment there. Keep the questions coming. We have been meeting since July so we hope to be able to answer everything.

    Kristi Capek, on behalf of the Blue River Arts Council

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    1. Kristi Capek you are correct. The new 150 seat community room in the new Library will probably not be suited to show movies. However, the new community room is capable of most all other events or meetings that BRAC has suggested for theater use. Also, I do not know the exact timeline on the completion of the new library but I did see concrete footings being poured yesterday. Hence, the completion date will probably be sometime in 2019. Your statement “…a functional movie theater is a large draw for a community of our size…”. Really? what data was used to draw that conclusion? If that is true the theater would still be open because of the large draw. School programs with live shows will never work in the theater or the new community room. Why? Not enough seating. When school children put on a live show, at any age, the school auditoriums are packed. Also, school facilities are open to any groups that want to host an event, meeting, dance recital, play or other community function. The city of Crete is not lacking for fine arts theater facilities. Therefore, the ONLY function that Crete would be missing is a movie theater. I may too narrow minded concerning this subject but I just can’t see that Crete has cancelled any arts and entertainment functions since the closing of the theater. What function would the Isis theater provide that is not already in existence in Crete? Movies – period.
      The sky has not fallen on arts and entertainment industry of Crete with the closing of the Isis theater. Do I applaud the efforts of Thom Reeves and staff to keep the theater running during difficult times? Absolutely. Would the citizens of Crete love to see the Movie Theater remain open? I believe so. However, to spin the reopening of the movie theater as a necessity for fine arts continuation or growth in Crete is, in my opinion, misleading.
      Fine arts has done well and will continue to do well in Crete with or without the Isis theater. IMHO the reopening of the Isis for use as movie theater is the only justification for discussion.

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