Eye on KELOLAND: State Theatre’s cinematic six months

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The historic State Theatre in downtown Sioux Falls has surpassed two important milestones this month. The restored 95-year-old theater has now been open for six months and on Friday welcomed its 10,000th customer.

Management expects even larger movie crowds in the months ahead as the risks from COVID-19 lessen.

Adam Vogel of Sioux Falls has been a longtime follower of the restoration of the State Theatre. But this is his first time to actually see a movie in the historic building, six months after its reopening.

“When I saw, during COVID that this was going to open, I was very excited. And I’m finally vaccinated so, I’ve been looking forward to this for years because I like old movies but I never got the chance to see these in theaters,” Vogel said.

First-timers like Vogel still make up a large part of the State’s movie-going crowds.

“Kind of surprised about how many people are still coming in for the first time. We see some shows this past weekend, about 50-percent of the crowd is their first time in,” State Theatre General Manager Steven Dahlmeier said.

The novelty of the State’s reopening has yet to wear-out. The century-old splendor of the restored building is as much of a draw as the movies shown here.

“And it’s so awesome to see it come to life at this beautiful scale and all the detail,” State Theatre Executive Director Allison Weiland said.

Executive Director Allison Weiland says attendance at the state theater has been steady over the past six months, with sellouts of certain movie classics nearly every weekend.

“It’s really fun to see movies like E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, movies that I love, selling out. I think it’s great to see them on the big screen, as you’re supposed to see them, not just on your television,” Weiland said.

Diane Olson of Sioux Falls estimates she’s already seen as many as fifty movies at the State.

“Oh my gosh! This theater, I love the history, I love all the renovations, the movies, they fit every genre of movies, so there’s something for everyone,” Olson said.

When she’s not watching movies, Olson works as a volunteer at the theater. Since the State Theatre is a non-profit, volunteer help is vital in making sure the shows go on.

“Sometimes you’ll see me scanning tickets, sometimes you’ll see me ushering sometimes, if you come during the week, you might see me here cleaning,” Olson said.

The State has been relaxing its COVID-19 restrictions in the theater, including no longer requiring customers to wear masks.

“We still have some social distancing in our seats, but we’re slowly removing those, too. So hopefully, by mid-summer, we’ll remove all social distancing and we’ll be back to full capacity,” Dahlmeier said.

Before the pandemic hit, the State Theatre’s plan was to show movies 7 nights a week. But for now, and the foreseeable future, they’re showing movies, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“In a way, COVID’s kind of been a blessing, as far as us stepping in and phasing-in our opening. So we didn’t just dive in with 7-days a week of movies which would have been a little too much for us to handle right away with the two of us,” Dahlmeier said.

A historic theater, overcoming the challenges of a historic pandemic, expects bigger crowds on movie nights as customers get more comfortable stepping out to see a film, instead of streaming them from home.

This is Cinema Week, a nationwide promotion of the movie theater industry.

The State Theatre will be hosting a screening of the HBO documentary, Our Towns. Wednesday night’s screening is sold out.

You can check out other movie offerings at the State and apply to become a volunteer, by clicking here

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