It's been more than 20 years since movie goers could take in a movie in downtown Sioux Falls. Those same years are a bit of a dark period in downtown's history when crime rates were higher and the crowds were tougher.
But 2007 might have been the turning point. Just five years ago, the City of Sioux Falls started the Phillips to the Falls project and downtown business owners worked to reclaim their storefronts as well.
Now, the old State Theatre downtown is under restoration and the project is coming closer to curtain time.
In 1926, hundreds of people lined the streets in downtown Sioux Falls, waiting to take in a movie at the then state-of-the-art State Theatre. Just as time took a toll on photos of the building, it did on the theatre too. The last time the credits rolled there was in the early 90's.
"Some things had been taken apart; others had just fallen into disrepair. All the seats were gone, of course. The concession stand was gone. It just wasn't a theatre anymore. It was a shell," Sioux Falls resident Stacy Newcomb-Weiland said.
Newcomb-Weiland was on the Sioux Falls Board of Historical Preservation in 2007 when she saw the State Theatre as not only a historic asset, but one that could also enhance the downtown experience.
"In 2007, Phillips on the Falls just started happening and I could see this type of venue was going to be needed down the road and we would probably regret not restoring it," Newcomb-Weiland said.
Work crews started with replacing the roof and heating and cooling system. Today, you can also see where the layout has been changed to accommodate restrooms and a new concessions stand.
"The whole goal is to create a modern theatre without disturbing the historic side of it. And that takes a little extra planning than just putting up a building," Sioux Falls State Theatre Executive Director Stephen Williamson said.
Williamson says the stencils on the walls and the original organ chambers have been altered over time. They will be brought back to their 1920's elegance. At the same time, the theatre will install a modern-day retractable screen, offer high-top table and chair seating along the back and have its own beer and wine license. With seating for 800 and being the only movie theatre in downtown, organizers expect it to be a financial win for all downtown businesses.
"We're estimating tens of thousands of people a year will come through the theatre and utilize it. So that's a big impact on a small downtown like this," Newcomb-Weiland said.
"It's going to be worth more than anyone can even imagine. It's going to be absolutely spectacular," Williamson said.
And if fundraising keeps pace, we'll all be able to watch a movie in the new seats sometime in 2013.
The theatre is open the first Friday of each month for anyone who wants to walk through and see the progress.