RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — For over a century, the Elks Theatre in Rapid City has been entertaining the community.
Families have been enjoying shows since 1912 and the tradition continues today.
Josh Lange was born and raised in Rapid City, and the Elks Theatre has always been one of his favorite places to go with his family.
“Grew up coming to the theater with my parents. My mom ran a home daycare so we took part in the summer programs and we would come here once a week every summer,” Lange said.
Not only did Josh come to the movies when he was a kid, but he also worked here. Now, Josh takes his own family to the movies to continue that special tradition that was started when he was young.
“I’ve just always really enjoyed coming here and now I have my own family and I bring my kids here. The Elks just has a different feel and atmosphere than any other theater around so it holds a special place in my heart,” Lange said.
Owner Curt Small, says the theater originally opened as an opera house in 1912. It started showing silent movies a couple years later. In 2008, Small took ownership of the theater but he has been working at and operating the Elks for several decades.
“Really it was the building. I just love this building. It’s got such a great atmosphere to it. It has a meaningful role that it plays in the community and that was important to me. Honestly, when I started working here, I had no idea it was going to become a lifelong career for me,” Small said.
The Elks has gone through many challenges over the years, including floods, frozen pipes, shutting down and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, a lot of theaters did not survive. Their cash flow was turned off overnight and really had nothing to fall back on. Our popcorn has been something that we take a lot of pride in and taken it serious for the better part of 25 years,” Small said.
The Elks continued to make popcorn for the community to take home during the pandemic when businesses, like the theater, had to shut down.
“They have the best popcorn around, you can ask anybody, this is the best place to get it. During the pandemic, we would come down and buy popcorn when they weren’t showing movies and take it home to watch a movie because they do have the best popcorn around because it is. I don’t know what it is that makes it special. I even made the popcorn when I worked here but it’s just the best,” Lange said.
With a loyal community behind it and loyal employees, the Elks was able to open the doors back up.
“I’ve worked here at the Elks Theatre for 22 years and it has just been the greatest opportunity I could have ever been a part of. I feel so humbled to be in the historic theater, getting to learn the business every day and new things that we are doing,” Kriste Steinken, General Manager, said.
As generations continue to support the theater, work here or just attend a show, the Elks Theatre remains a Rapid City staple.
“I don’t doubt that this place can continue to vision of being a part of this community, serving all of our patrons and always giving our best service, our friendliest smiles, so I know that the future will be just as bright and as joyful as it is right now,” Steinken said.
The Elks Theatre is home to one of the largest screens in the state. It shows not only movies, but it also hosts concerts, business meetings, seminars, and even weddings.