- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

BUCHANAN, Va. —As a young girl growing up in a small middle-Tennessee town, Gloria Carter looked up to the owner of the local movie theater.
At Saturday matinees, that woman could cast a spell on children. Mischief-minded youngsters ready to wreak havoc stopped when she approached. All she had to do was walk down the aisle or take the end seat of a row.
Mrs. Carter wanted to be like that woman. Soon, she may get the chance.
She and her husband, Dale Carter, have purchased the old Buchanan Theater, where the screen has been dark since 1985. Its one of a handful of vintage downtown buildings that have not been renovated under the towns revitalization program.
The couple plan to make good on the slogan that appeared on a poster outside the theater recently: "This building is not empty. It is full of possibilities."
"We bought it to keep it from being torn down for some other purpose," Mr. Carter says. "We try to help the community when we can."
The Carters bought the theater and an adjoining building for $75,000 from Betsy Thompson. Mrs. Thompsons late husband, Wayne, was the last operator and showed movies there from 1975 to 1985.
Many local residents have called to see if the theater is reopening. Some just stop by the building, where workmen are replacing the roof. Others have volunteered to help with the restoration.
Built in 1914, the two-story wood-frame theater is one of just five pre-1940 structures on Buchanans Main Street that have not been renovated. Known originally as Main Street Show, it once featured silent movies.
"Its exciting because this is one of the most desired buildings for residents to see open," says Harry Gleason, Buchanans manager of downtown revitalization.
Its unclear exactly when the refurbished theater will open, but once it does, residents no longer will have to drive 25 miles to Roanoke or Lexington to see a movie or play, he says.
It was Mr. Gleason who hung the "full of possibilities" poster outside the theater. It was his latest attempt in many years to find a buyer.
The Carters look beyond the layers of dust, the rusting screws holding seats to the concrete floor, the moisture-drenched walls and scraggly stage curtains and see a lot of potential.
They want to restore the theater to the way it looked when they saw films there with their two sons in the late 1970s. That includes refurbishing the outdoor ticket booth, the lobby concession stand and the popcorn popper, projection room and balcony.
They plan to establish a nonprofit organization to run the theater and to subsidize the renovations. The couple envision families attending movies, film festivals, live theatrical productions and concerts that will include any kind of music, from opera to bluegrass.
"Its important for people to have pride in the community and something to do," Mrs. Carter says, "but its going to take a lot of hard work."
Mr. Carter estimates it will take about $130,000 to redo the movie house — replace the pressed-metal ceiling, clean its 300 seats, move the screen, remodel the bathroom, replace wall coverings and the water-heating system and put in new sound and video systems.
"A lot of sweat equity is going on in here to make it comparable to other buildings in Buchanan," he says. Its too early to establish an opening date, he adds.
Until late 1994, the Carters lived in Greyledge, a pre-Civil War mansion that stands on nearly 800 acres and had been in Mr. Carters family more than 100 years. Injuries from an auto accident left them unable to care for it, so they sold it for $1.6 million in March and moved into a smaller house.
The Carters say they had eyed the theater before putting Greyledge on the market. Mrs. Carter has long been involved with the Buchanan Special Events Committee, and she has an interest in performing arts.
The committee, she says, has a hard time finding facilities other than churches for events and "the theater has been a love of mine and both boys."
"We are not really as interested ourselves in trying to run the theater as we are in having a place for the community," she says.
Mr. Carter spent many Saturday afternoons at the Buchanan Theater as a youngster, watching Roy Rogers films and cartoons. Many townsfolk, he says, had their first dates there.
The Carters say they wont be able to compete for new movie releases, but they would like to show second releases, hold festivals with old movies and have performing-arts events.
Mr. Carter, who vowed to spend his time fishing after he sold Greyledge, already has started removing chairs to repair walls damaged by water leaks. He also has ripped out a bathroom partition to make the facility accessible to the disabled and is envisioning opening night.
"Hopefully, it will bring everyone a lot of pleasant memories," he says. "I hope it will be used very frequently — as long as I dont have to be here all the time."
Built in 1914, the two-story wood-frame theater is one of just five pre-1940 structures on Buchanans Main Street that have not been renovated.


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