- Associated Press - Friday, October 30, 2015

GILCHRIST, Ore. (AP) - The 77-year-old Gilchrist Theatre is rising from the dead this Halloween.

More than 20 years after it showed its last movie, the Gilchrist Theatre reopened Oct. 28 as a haunted house, giving northern Klamath County residents a sneak peak of what new owners Jeri and Kim McGinnis hope to turn into a performing arts center and community space.

The mother-daughter duo, who live in La Pine, expect the 200-seat theater with its stage and screen still intact to host everything from Gilchrist High choir concerts and independent films to belly-dancing classes and band practices.

“We’re right next to the school,” said Jeri McGinnis, who worked more than 30 years in the construction industry. “With that in mind, we’re very conscious of being kid-friendly.”

Jeri McGinnis said she had always hoped to put a movie theater in La Pine while her kids were growing up there, but the startup costs - she estimated them at more than $1 million - were too high. According to Klamath County records, she and her daughter bought the 5,058-square foot theater from Charanne Graham on Oct. 2 for $125,000. Graham had owned the building since 2006, when she purchased the theater from members of the Gilchrist family for $100,000.

“We’re hoping to get everything south of Bend,” Jeri McGinnis said in terms of where the theater will draw business. “It’s 80 miles to a theater in Eugene, 80 miles to a theater in Klamath Falls and 45 or 50 miles to a theater in Bend.”

Built in 1938 by the Gilchrist Timber Company, the Gilchrist Theatre operated as a movie hall until the mid-1980s, the McGinnises said. It later served as a video store, office space for the U.S. Forest Service and even a home before sitting vacant for the last few years. While the building’s to-do list is plenty long - bathroom upgrades, outside painting, interior water damage - the McGinnises hope to have the theater up and running as soon as possible.

Kim McGinnis is already running a gift shop out of one of the front rooms of the building and the duo has scheduled a grand opening for Nov. 7 with a classic movie.

“I’d really like to show a lot of independent films,” said Kim McGinnis, 28, who plans on using a digital projector for most films. “We volunteered at the BendFilm Festival this year and it was really eye-opening how many indie films are out there.”

The theater itself is a cinema lovers’ treasure trove. The projection and sound systems installed after a fire in 1941 remain in the theater, as do several rolls of old film.

The McGinnises also found a box of hand-kept records - some from as early as the mid-1940s - detailing the attendance and gate receipts for all shows. The 1946 Lana Turner drama “The Postman Always Rings Twice” was a big hit in Gilchrist. John Wayne’s 1953 Guadalcanal epic, “Flying Leathernecks,” not so much.

“People from the mill, they could charge their ticket to their mill account,” Jeri McGinnis said. “There’s a lot of amazing history here.”

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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