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September 27, 2012 05:02 PM

Theatre Renamed After First Lady Of Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, Sd

After years of fundraising, the State Theatre on South Phillips Avenue is scheduled to open next summer. And thanks to a significant donation, the theatre is adding another well known name to its title.

From now on, it's the Sylvia R. Henkin State Theatre.

The woman known as the Grand Dame of Sioux Falls will now have her name attached to the shining lights of a downtown landmark.

"It's overwhelming. There is no way to describe it but overwhelming. When my family told me this was going to happen, I thought they were crazy. I didn't know what they were doing," Sylvia Henkin said.

Henkin has been a civic leader for more than 60 years, serving on numerous boards and was heavily involved at the KSOO TV and radio stations.

"The biggest thing is to be associated with Sylvia Henkin. We could not have asked for a better name to put on the State Theatre," Executive Director Stephen Williamson said.

The new name comes after the Henkin and Gene McGowan families donated $500,000.  It's the largest single gift to restore the theatre back to its former glory.

Two and a half million dollars has already been raised and another $500,000 is needed before movies can premiere downtown in June.

"It's a lifelong dream and I think everybody in the whole community is going to be thrilled to be able to come down," Henkin said.

And when the restoration is finished, the theater's 92-year-old namesake has big plans for opening night.

"I hope I'll be running the popcorn stand," Henkin said.

A lot of people have memories of the State Theatre.

It first opened in 1926 and people would line up for blocks to see classic films, like "Gone With The Wind."  In 1956, the State was the first theatre in South Dakota to host the world premiere of a major motion picture. 

But with modern competition, the aging theatre closed in 1991.  It didn't take long for an effort to get underway to save the State.

In 2001, the Film Society bought the property and has been working to renovate and reopen it ever since.

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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