- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

SINCLAIR, Wyo. (AP) - In the lobby of the old movie theater, it’s drafty. The plaster is peeling. There is a tricycle, a kiddie kitchen and other items stored by the town’s recreation center.

But take a few steps further into the seating area, and community members will talk about the potential.

The 312 varnished wooden seats. The stage from which to drop a screen. The bright, hand-painted flourishes and geometric designs on the walls that match the building’s Spanish Colonial-style architecture.

No one has watched a show at the Sinclair Theatre, built in 1924, since the 1970s.

But the community, which most people identify by its oil refinery, craves an artistic renaissance. They want to restore the theater. The project is part of a larger, ongoing effort to revitalize downtown by tapping into the past to create a richer Main Street.

“We’re going back to as much original as possible,” said Wendy Faldowski, vice chairwoman of the Sinclair Theatre Restoration Committee and the town’s assistant treasurer.

Sinclair used to be called Parco, which stands for Producers and Refiners Corp. The refinery company owned the town from the time it built it in 1924 until the late 1960s.

Parco built the theater and other buildings in town with masonry and beige stucco in a distinct Spanish style. Their roofs are covered with clay tiles. Arches that are prominent in Spanish Colonial architecture serve as doorways.

It was a vibrant little community in the first decades, said Leif Johansson, chairman of the restoration committee and a town councilman. There was a barber and a soda font.

“They had dances at the Parco Hotel,” Johansson said. “They had bands in the recreation hall, live bands then. They were things going on. They had a bowling alley. They had a coffee shop. They had a little grocery store.”

Johansson dated the town’s decline to 1970, when Interstate 80 opened and rerouted traffic just south of Sinclair. Traffic had previously passed through downtown on the portion of U.S. 30, known as the Lincoln Highway.

Like the old movie theater, the other buildings are still there, with different occupiers.

Today, the town has about 500 residents, many of whom are family members looking for entertainment. There is no place in Sinclair to catch a flick.

For live performances, people travel to Casper, Denver or Laramie.

The restoration committee wants to show second-run movies on the silver screen. Raise the screen, and community and professional groups could perform on the sage.

They believe the restored movie theater will be visited by Sinclair residents, and residents in Rawlins and other nearby Carbon County communities, since there aren’t many movie theaters or playhouses around.

“The town will maintain the building so we can offer activities at a discount rate,” Johansson said. “That way, no one will have to worry about profits.”

Brandon Taylor, a renovation committee member, performed as a professional stage actor in New York and California for six years before returning to the area to raise a family. A local theater company he’s involved with, Upllift Community Players, wants to perform in a small, intimate space like the Sinclair Theater.

Live performances to Carbon County currently play at Rawlins High School, which has an auditorium that seats 1,000, Taylor said.

Taylor’s wife is a classically trained ballerina who owns a dance studio. Its production of “The Nutcracker” each year that could also use the facility, he said.

“Anybody culturally who wants to come in and do a production, it would be a space,” he said. “It would be a stage with some seats, something that’s hard to come by, and a very cool and interesting space.”

Restoration of the theater will cost more than $3 million and take two years, Taylor said.

The committee has launched a GoFundMe page to accept donations for the project. It will try to obtain state and local grants.

It needs bathrooms and other features that can be accessible to patrons in wheelchairs. The committee wants to move the ticket booth and concession stand to other parts of the building. The theater needs asbestos abatement and a modern film projection system.

Communities throughout Wyoming are upgrading their downtowns to draw more people and nightlife and enhance residents’ quality of life, and Sinclair is no exception.

“We’ve wanted to do a Main Street like all the big towns are doing, and our Main Street goes from the end of the refinery all the way to 10th (Street),” Faldowski said.

The town has finished restoring a fountain on the plaza and a pavilion in the city park. It moved an old Union Pacific caboose in the town park and will build a deck in front of it to draw live, outdoor concerts, Johansson said.

Work on the theater is next, and it could be the upgrade that will entice people to leave their homes and go downtown, like people did last century.

“It’s unique,” Taylor said. “You don’t see many theaters like this.”


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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