(PLYMOUTH, IN) There will be films, but the Rees Theater will no longer be just a movie house. That was the message from organizers during a Thursday presentation at Plymouth’s Wild Rose Moon, 115 N. Michigan St., on the theater’s future.
“What people would like to do nostalgically we hope we’ll be able to do, but we just can’t do that all the time,” said Jack Davis, chair of the Rees’ business plan committee. “We need to find other ways to make the Rees sustainable and have a business plan that is sustainable.”
“We don’t want to put a whole bunch of community money — dollars from you and me, the city and other areas — into a facility and then have a business plan that in two years is going to close the building again. Then we (would) have an albatross on the corner,” Davis continued. “(It would be) a nice looking albatross, but it’s still an albatross.
“We believe the Rees can be an economic benefit to our community as well as a cultural and educational benefit for our community.”
The cost to show a film — even an older one — is prohibitive, Davis said. Movies in the public domain likely won’t garner much interest from potential moviegoers.
That the theater must be multi-use — especially given Plymouth’s size relative to other communities, was echoed by Randy Danielson, co-chair of the Rees Project Committee, the group behind efforts to revitalize the theater. Committee members visiting similarly restored theaters in Indiana and in nearby states. In almost every case, the theaters they visited had become multi-purpose venues.
“It used to be that (people) wanted (older theaters) restored,” Danielson said. “Restored is not a word they’re really using today because of the sustainability. We do not want to end up with something that is just a burden on the city or someone to keep it maintained. We do feel that repurposing is the way to go.”
The Rees Project Committee took input via Facebook, during the recent Rees Theater tours, and in meetings with various county performance groups. The committee also interviewed potential vendors who might be interested in using the theater.
Those surveyed overwhelmingly — about 70 percent of respondents — favored the Rees holding musical and theater productions as well as showing second-run movies.
The majority of respondents also want the theater to show kid-friendly movies, host live music, and have themed movie nights, such as Westerns or science fiction. Many respondents also want the theater to be available for class reunions, weddings and receptions, comedy acts, educational events, and banquets and dinner events, Davis said.
Respondents were mixed, however, when surveyed about the Rees possibly serving alcohol during events, such as banquets and receptions.
“But of all the places we visited, that has been pointed out as a real key to the sustainability of a venue such as this,” Davis said. “There will definitely be times when alcohol will not be offered to the audience. But there will be other venues and other times and other performances where it would fit in nicely.”
Before the Rees could be used for receptions, dinners or theatrical productions, the interior will have to be redesigned for flexibility, Davis said. The floor in the theater’s screening area is currently sloped and will have to be replaced with a tiered floor to accommodate tables and chairs.
Another key for the theater’s future will be food service, Davis said. While there won’t be enough room inside the Rees for a full-sized, restaurant-style kitchen, committee members believe room could be found for a prep kitchen.
“(Caterers) can bring their food in and get it ready to serve and serve it inside our facility,” Davis said.
He said the theater’s current stage is adequate for small productions, but it will likely have to be extended farther from the building’s eastern side to create more space behind it.
As well, Davis said, dressing rooms for actors or wedding parties will need to be added inside. Storage areas — for tables and chairs, sets and props — will also have to be addressed.
“When we went to different venues that were already existing, one of the first things they say is, ‘Storage, storage, storage,’” Davis said. “To be honest, we lack that.”
The Rees will need to offer flexibility in seating and have modern sound and lighting equipment, he said.
“Our mission is to provide a catalyst for the promotion of artistic, educational and cultural events in the region and we want to be a venue to celebrate life and community milestones,” Davis said. “To be honest, that last part is probably where we’re going to make our money to keep it operating. But we believe we will be able to meet that mission for the Rees.
“We believe as a committee (this) can be done,” he continued. “The bones are there. It now takes (the community) to make that happen.”
How to help
Tax deductible donations for the Rees Theater can be made in two ways. Checks can be made to Wythougan Valley Preservation Trust – or simply Wythougan – with “Rees Restoration” written in the subject line and dropped off at the Marshall County Historical Museum. Wythougan is the nonprofit group overseeing the theater project until Rees organizers formally obtain federal nonprofit status, which is expected in about two months.
Or donations can be made online at gofundme.com/reestheatre. Donations made online are also through Wythougan and tax deductible. There’s also a 7-minute video at the gofundme.com site. Or visit youtube.com and search using “Rees Update 8-2017.”