CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - he 1952 marquee on The Lincoln Cheyenne is lit up again in downtown Cheyenne - no longer with movie titles but with names of bands and music artists to perform in concert at the 1928 building.
Wyoming musician Jalan Crossland broke in the stage Aug. 14 with a sold-out first show for The Lincoln as live music venue. New owners have renovated and added state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment to the building, which previously housed a movie theater.
“It was originally built as a live theater in 1928,” co-owner Jon Jelinek said. “So really we’re kind of bringing it back to its roots as a live theater again.”
The venue seats 1,250, while restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic currently limit the audiences to 250. The owners and venue manager David Soules plan to eventually bring in major headliners once it’s possible, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Owners Jelinek and his wife, Renee, plan to tie in the venue with their nonprofit, the Alternative Arts Project, which aims to provide access to music and arts education for local teens who may not otherwise have those opportunities.
“And then kind of a natural progression with the theater is to be able to not only provide that ability for kids to be able to go see live music and hopefully get inspired by live music,” Jelinek said, “but also, I mean, just the entire community of Cheyenne be able to really experience the same thing.”
Old and new
The Lincoln’s sound system and lighting system are state of the art, Soules said.
“We have, in my opinion - you know and I’ve been doing a lot of production work throughout the state and the Front Range - we probably have one of the best sound systems in the state, if not the Front Range,” he said. “I personally designed and specked out the lighting system. It’s unlike anything Wyoming has. It’s absolutely amazing.”
The equipment combines with the acoustics of the original building, Jelinek said.
“I mean, it was it was built as a live theater, which meant an actor on the stage would have had to thrown their voice from the stage to the back row of the balcony,” he said. “So, you know, you put a great sound system in there, I mean, the shape and the layout of the room is designed for sound.”
The building was turned into a full-time movie theater in the 1980s and movies played there until 2018. A 1952 remodel changed much of the original building, but glimpses further into the past remain, like the original seats from the 1928 theater in the upper balcony, Jelinek said. Dressing room mirrors are dated 1927 from the original theater with updated lighting.
The lower balcony features stadium-style seating similar to Red Rocks Amphitheatre or the Mission Ballroom in Denver, Soules said.
A marquee crowns the 1952 façade, and ornate designs their architect described as rococo style continue inside the theater with ornate cast plaster moldings and star features on the walls, Jelinek said.
An apartment behind the marquee is now Airbnb lodging called The Lincoln Loft to help pay some of the bills for the building. The Jelineks, whose properties include the Paramount Cafe with a gallery and stage, put out a call for artists during the summer for painted murals that now hang in The Lincoln.
Among the renovations, they built a bar in the venue. They also pulled 408 movie theater seats from the main floor level and poured about 100 yards of concrete to terrace the space out into standing-room tiers. They removed both a wall built in the balcony and firewall placed on the stage in the 1980s to offer a large enough platform for national touring acts.
The owners designed the dressing rooms and green rooms Soules describes as “absolutely beautiful.”
“It’s primarily a live entertainment concert venue, so unlike most of the theaters in Wyoming, the entire first floor is standing room,” Soules said.
The venue stands out for its historic charm and that it’s designed as a concert venue rather than a more traditional theater like many that host concerts, Soules said.
The capacity is on par with some of the larger venues in the Front Range, like Washington’s in Fort Collins or the Ogden Theatre in Denver.
“So we could definitely grab some of the same shows with our capacity,” he said.
Music for the community
The new owners two years ago came across The Lincoln building, and the sellers were willing to donate a significant portion to a nonprofit, Jelinek said.
The Alternative Arts Project the Jelinek launched in 2012 has offered after-school group guitar lessons and scholarships for private lessons.
The owners took a break to work on other projects but plan to return to such efforts and offer more with the venue. Their plans include free concert tickets for teens once the venue is at full capacity as well as training for those interested in lighting and sound production and seminars with national touring musicians, he said.
Upcoming shows include Denver indie rock band Wildermiss on Sept. 11, the Beatles vs. Stones show with tribute bands Abbey Road and Satisfaction on Sept. 12 and on Sept. 18 Reverend Horton Heat, a well-known act in the rockabilly world.
Soules works to bring different music genres to Cheyenne, where various venues offer country music and the Cheyenne Civic Center often brings in Broadway shows and classic rock names.
“So we’re trying to cater to a younger crowd,” he said. “We’re looking at rock, hip hop, EDM music, still keeping with some Americana, you know, and kind of like more up and coming acts and then also trying to grab some headliners as they come in and out of Colorado, playing Red Rocks or Boulder Theater or something like that.”
Soules plans on one or two shows a weekend of mainly regional acts and smaller touring bands while the capacity is limited and major headliners aren’t touring.
They’ve reached out to some larger acts and plan to more after the pandemic, Jelinek said.
“But really an act like that, the money they cost to bring in, the numbers just don’t unfortunately work with only 250 people,” he said.
Soules has been booking shows for 10 years in Wyoming and brought acts including The Avett Brothers, ZZ Top and Mumford and Sons to the state.
“And I’m excited to see what we can do with this theater after COVID’s done,” he said, “and we can get back to our normal lives and start bringing some larger acts to Cheyenne - and more consistently as well.”
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