It has not hit them yet, but owner Sandy Oliver and her staff are about to say so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye to the Star Cinema Sunday night. But local cinephiles can be sure that this movie is not the Last Picture Show.
More than 21 years after Oliver and her late sister Carolyn Lewis opened the Star Cinema at the corner of Sidney Avenue and Third Avenue, the theatre will close its doors at that location, then move to 9824 Fifth St. before returning to its current location, where it will re-emerge as part of the Cameo Condo project, a mixed commercial-residential development.
Oliver said she and her staff have not yet reached the sentimental stage, because of the work that remains ahead of them.
“People are saying, ‘Are you going to do anything special for the goodbye?’ To tell you the truth, we have so many other things on our mind about what we need to get ready,” said Oliver.
If everything goes according to plan, the theatre will be back in the picture so to speak one week after Sunday’s closure.
Casman Properties, which is building the Cameo Condo development, is handling all of the logistics, after having also secured and renovated the temporary location where the theatre plans to operate for a maximum of 30 months before returning.
Oliver said she and her staff will make the temporary location work until the new, refurbished space is available, thanks in part to Casman Properties, which is also covering rent at the temporary location and charging a below-market rate in the new space.
“They [Casman Properties] have gone beyond for the benefit of the community,” she said. General manager Lindsey Pomper agreed. “They are not doing it for us,” she said. “They are doing it for the community of Sidney.”
The theatre is not just leaving a physical space. It, along with the audience, is also in a way saying goodbye to its character, charm and memories.
Pomper acknowledged this emotional aspect, but promised that the theatre’s sense of community would continue at the temporary location, which will even feature the same quirky furniture and decor.
“We are a very much a community theatre, and that is part of our value system,” said Pomper. “That is going to continue on no matter the space. But there are a lot of special memories here. We have had weddings, memorials, fundraisers and stuff like that. There are a lot of memories here. It’s a special place.”
One special occasion was the 2013 fundraiser that raised $185,000 for the cinema itself, an event that made national headlines because it happened during a time when many theatres were going out of business because of commercial pressures. The fundraiser helped the cinema purchase two digital projectors and new seating.
“That was an amazing thing, and honestly, it really wouldn’t have happened without Lindsay [Gomper], because of her experiences in a non-profit.” Added Pomper, “[and] Susan Simosko [who helped to organize the fundraiser].”
This period was also an emotional period for Oliver, whose sister died of cancer on May 24, 2012, shortly after the start of the fundraising for the theatre.
“I think of Carolyn when I think of this place, and she will come with us,” said Pomper.
Oliver said the community’s response at the time was “outstanding.” People, she added, have since continued to show their appreciation for the theatre. As moving day approaches, audience members have been sharing their memories about the place in special book, with some even shedding tears. Many have also asked how they could help with the move.
Oliver plans to repay this support by maintaining the theatre’s sense of community, hospitality and uniqueness in the new, old location.
“We have always said it is not the cement that makes this a nice place,” said Oliver. “The building is not what does it. I don’t think we will ever make you feel that you are just a number walking through the door.”
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