Streaming events, classic movies to be shown at Plaza Theatre

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Classic films will leap back to life on the big screen when the Plaza Theater re-opens in Miamisburg later this year.

Instead of the new, big budget, effects-laden films of today, imagine sitting in a newly refurbished theater that is almost a century old and watching a classic film such as “Casablanca” or “Gone with the Wind.” That is exactly the experience the city of Miamisburg wants to bring people in the area at the Plaza Theatre.

“Downtown Miamisburg has always been a cool but quaint hangout spot,” said Tyler Carroll, a Wright State University graduate from Miamisburg. “Having a little theater near the pizza place and ice cream shop again will make it a perfect Friday night destination.”

About a year and a half ago, a handful of citizens in Miamisburg decided to restore and renovate the historic theater. This initial group included two people from the city along with several local entrepreneurs: charity auctioneer Doug Sorrell, Bonnie Nolan from A Taste of Wine, Clint Morton from Farmers and Merchants Bank, Jim Dunn from TJ Chumps and Andy Chance from Canopy Creek Farm.

The theater will cater to nostalgia by showing classic films on a state-of-the-art, 36-foot screen with full Dolby Digital sound.

It originally opened on Christmas day in 1919 and thrived for decades until it had to close its doors in the mid-60s due to competition from television and newer theaters. Since then, some local businesses have used the location as a storefront, but they’ve all come and gone, leaving the building vacant since 2002.

“This project is about more than just showing old films,” said Sorrell, president of the Plaza project.

He discussed letting young filmmakers and students rent the theater to show off some of their films, musicians having an interest in performing at the theater, and even live streaming of certain events.

“If some great music act is streaming a concert that they’re doing from the Hollywood Bowl, we’ll be able to show it,” said Sorrell. “We’ll be able to show a Broadway play live if they’re streaming it. When they have the presidential debate at Wright State next year, we’ll probably be able to stream that live into the Plaza Theatre.”

According to Sorrell, the goal of re-opening the theater is to help get people downtown.

“Seventy-one percent of the people who came to downtown Miamisburg did so to eat. This is just another reason for people to come downtown,” he said. “You can come to Miamisburg and catch a classic movie, and eat at one of our fabulous dining establishments.”

Sorrell isn’t worried about the other theaters in the area.

“We’re not going to compete with the first-run theaters,” he said. “I would expect that the vast majority of what we show is probably 10 years old or older. But if you think about it, we’ve got 90 years of films to show.”

As of now, movies are only expected to cost $5.

“We’re not trying to do this to make money, but we need to be self-sustaining,” Sorrell said.

The concession stand will also be minimal so as not to eat into the local restaurants business. Popcorn, soda, and maybe a couple candy options are all that’s expected to be offered. You won’t be eating overpriced hot dogs and cheeseburgers or ordering cocktails at the Plaza like at other area theaters.

“We don’t want to compete with the local restaurants. We’ve got to complement them,” Sorrell said.

The project is being funded completely by private donations, Sorrell said.

“We are now at $351,744.09. The original goal of raising a total of $400,000 is now possible,” said Sorrell, noting that the money has been raised with fewer than 100 donors.

Several local businesses have contributed to the project, including a $40,000 donation from the Miamisburg Rotary Club and $25,000 each from TJ Chumps and Bullwinkle’s.

“What we’re going to do will be an economic boost to the downtown,” said Sorrell. “This is the next piece of the puzzle. You’ve got great places to eat, you’ve got fabulous things to do, and now they’re showing classic movies on a 36-foot screen.”

Mark Middleton, a Wright State University student from West Carrollton, likes the idea.

“I think it has a lot of potential for nostalgic fun,” he said. “The idea of sitting in an old time theater watching a movie from the 30s makes me really excited.”

The first movie to be shown at the theater has yet to be decided, but Sorrell said that once the theater is up and running the community will have an opportunity to weigh in on what films will be shown.

He said that some people have suggested “Field Of Dreams” would be a good fit.

“This was something that the city and a lot of people saw as a project that they wanted to get done and a lot of people thought it would never happen,” Sorrell said. “I was one of those people. I didn’t think it would happen.”

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