Renovated theater set to reopen on Christmas

The reopening of the renovated Plaza Theatre is planned for Christmas Day — the 96th anniversary of its first showing.

The site that began featuring films on Dec. 25, 1919, is in the final stages of a $350,000 renovation fueled by private pledges and donations to draw more regional entertainment seekers to downtown Miamisburg — a priority for the city — by showing classic movies.

“The challenge now is simply to show the right films,” said Doug Sorrell, a member of the Plaza Theatre Association, a group of Miamisburg business people who have led efforts to reopen the 33 S. Main St. site, which closed as a movie house in 1968.

“I do love movies and the Miami Valley loves nostalgia,” he said.

The theater will have 285 seats, a single, 34-foot screen, digital projection equipment, a “state-of-the-art” sound system and a concession area, Sorrell said. Except for the final week of the year – when it will be open every day through Dec. 30 – the theater’s normal showings will be Thursdays through Sundays at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets will be $5 each.

The Plaza group had aimed for an earlier opening. But working with such an old structure that had been vacant for more than a decade, “you’re not quite sure what you’re going to find. And we ran into a couple of issues that we couldn’t have possibly foreseen,” Sorrell said.

The screen is set to be installed next week, as are seats, speakers and the projector, he said.

Organizers plan to mark the holiday reopening by featuring “Field of Dreams,” the Kevin Costner film about an Iowa farmer constructing a baseball field by leveling his cornfield.

The selection’s famous lines about building a park and drawing people have some parallels to the Plaza reopening, Sorrell said. He noted organizers considered keeping the debut film a secret, “but I wanted to sell tickets.”

The renovation project, announced earlier this year, has “created a lot of enthusiasm in the community,” Miamisburg Mayor Dick Church Jr. said.

The Plaza group has surpassed its goal of $400,000 in pledges and donations, officials said, with $50,000 of that projected for initial operating costs. More than $150,000 of those commitments are in hand, according to Sorrell.

“Throughout all of this that group … has done an amazing job fundraising,” said Miamisburg City Manager Keith Johnson.

The city did step in by underwriting the project through an agreement with Farmers & Merchants Bank.

But Sorrell said the Plaza group has been “bound and determined” not to rely on city funds, and with collected donations is in a position to begin repaying its bank loan.

The Plaza project is in line with the city’s master plan, key points of which focus on riverfront and downtown development. One element of that is attracting more people to its restaurant and pubs.

Those include Bullwinkle’s Top Hat Bistro, Lucky Star Brewery, Ron’s Pizza, the Star City Brewing Co., TJ Chumps and Bennett’s Publical Family Sports Grill, among others.

The Plaza project has created anticipation, Johnson said.

“A lot of people are waiting to see what something like this will do to the downtown,” he said. “I’ve always said that once the movie theater is in place, you could say that we’ve turned the corner – so to speak — downtown.

“And I really truly believe that,” he added. “It’s that last piece of redevelopment (in) downtown that shows that it’s a viable place not only for business, but especially for families.”

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