- Associated Press - Monday, July 28, 2014

WASHINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Arguably the question on many minds in Washington is, What’s happening at the Indiana Theater?

Many slow down or even stop on Main Street to see the work that is being done. Some have stopped to ask the contractors of SMart Construction to see what is up. What they will hear is nothing but good news. The Indiana Theater is slated to open this fall with a complete renovation.

Everything in the over 100-year-old theater will be refurbished or replaced, complete with a new roof, restrooms and a digital projection and sound system.

Owner Brent Barnhart told the Washington Times-Herald (http://bit.ly/1uyvvD4 ) he had his “eye on this theater since it closed.”

“I thought it was a really cool theater. Right size market to go into business in,” Barnhart said. “From a business standpoint as well as an emotional standpoint of seeing this great, beautiful theater, it is an amazing opportunity.”

Barnhart owns a similar theater in Paris, Illinois. He purchased the building earlier this year from a previous owner after AMC Theaters closed the Indiana in 2010. There have been attempts to reopen the theater, but Barnhart has secured financing from German American Bank to make sure it will open this fall. Some individuals and groups, like the FLiP Foundation, have donated to the Daviess County Economic Development Foundation to help the theater.

“(It was) Kerasotes theater for many, many years, and when AMC bought them out, they shut down everything that was less than six screens,” Barnhart said.

But there are some challenges facing Barnhart and SMart crews before opening. The roof of the building had failed, causing water damage to the ceilings of both screens. A large water leak in one of the restrooms resulted in a complete gutting of the restroom, floor included. These repairs were also on top of the work being done in repainting the inside and repairing the legendary Indiana marquee. The crew has uncovered some architectural gems since renovation that will also be featured.

To help Barnhart reopen the Indiana, he brought back the one person who knows the most about it, Blaine Kalberer. Kalberer started working for his grandfather, A.J., when he was 14. The theater has always been a part of the Kalberer family since A.J. moved to Washington in 1938. Blaine was semi-retired when the theater closed in 2010, but will return to help manage the theater when it opens.

Kalberer said the news of the theater reopening is “a dream come true.”

“I think it is going to go nuts and I think it will sustain itself,” Kalberer said.

The theater will compete with multiple-screen buildings in nearby communities because the Indiana will show first-run features on a new digital projection system. Barnhart said he installed the projectors in his other theater in Paris and believes it will bring lovers of cinema from all over.

“The picture is going to be amazing. The sound is going to be amazing,” Barnhart said. “It’s going to be really, really sharp when it is all done.”

The Indiana Theater now has a group on Facebook, posting updates and photos from the renovation. Since word has gone out about the theater project, Barnhart said the response has been outstanding.

“There has been a lot of great memories people have been sharing with us on Facebook,” Barnhart said. “I just think it is an amazing opportunity to bring life back into this building and create more memories for generations to come.”

An example of the excitement around town occurred when Barnhart and Kalberer were stopped on the street by an older woman, asking if the theater was going to reopen. When they told her yes, she gave them a fist pump and continued on to The Stitching Post. Barnhart said he wants to open as soon as he can.

“I’d like to open up one screen first and then have both screens up no later than November,” Barnhart said.

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Information from: Washington Times-Herald, http://www.washtimesherald.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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