October 24th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 43
The revival of the Orpheum Theatre
The renovations, the grand reopening and the new owners
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Despite being elbow-deep in paint and cleaning supplies for over a week, Shaun (left) and Allison Wagner are all smiles as the new owners of the Orpheum Theatre.
Pass Herald Reporter
When Allison and Shaun Wagner first walked into the Orpheum Theatre, they were astounded and enamoured with the historical splendor infusing in the place.

“The first time I had walked in here, I loved all the antiques,” says Allison. “When I came in, I was like, wow look at everything, how it’s like way back in time."

“Us growing up, I remember going to drive ins and you don’t see much of that anymore,” adds Shaun. “Cinema theatres now are so big and have this modern feel, which is great, but after moving down here and coming to this theatre, it brought back the history feel again. I just felt like, wow, something about this place is really catchy. It's got a lot of history in it.”

So when Blairmore’s historic theatre went up for sale several months ago, they pounced on the opportunity to purchase and operate the establishment, becoming the new owners of the Orpheum Theatre on Monday, October 15, 2018.

Over the last week and a half, the couple, enlisting the help of generous friends and family, have been elbow-deep in paint and cleaning supplies, getting the theatre ready for its grand reopening this Friday.

They’re dry-cleaning all the seats, generally sprucing up the building and repainting the interior, including the auditorium, which will be redone in more muted colours.

“Instead of it glowing off the walls, we wanted it to be a better visual. So we went with a darker colour so that we don’t have glare off the walls and you can have a nice viewing pleasure,” says Allison.
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They also have a brand-new popcorn machine coming in and have fixed the leak in the roof.
But besides a couple of exciting and necessary renovations and new purchases, the Wagners are committed to keeping a lot of the original features to maintain that authentic, retro feel of the building, which is actually designated as a Municipal Historic Resource. The wall lights you see in the auditorium, for example, came with the original building, dating back to 1921 when the theatre was built. They’ll be bringing back the original ticket booth for ticket sales and installing retro ceiling lights.

Never having operated a movie theatre before, it’s been a bit of learning curve to master the legal and technical intricacies of obtaining, receiving and playing a movie, but with the help of the Fox Theatre in Pincher Creek and former Orpheum owner Becky Fabro, the Wagners have navigated their way through contracts and legal documents to prepare a full five weeks of movies, starting with the timely Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween for the theatre’s grand reopening.

But if the facelift on the Orpheum isn’t exciting enough, the Wagners hope to organize many projects and programs that bring the theatre alive as a community hub for all types of visual entertainment, not just projected movies.

“We want to start bringing it back to the community so that people can actually come in here and do stuff instead of just seeing a movie. We have the stage, we have the area, we have 144 seats, why not open it up to the community to have this venue and be able to use it, instead of just the movies?” says Allison.
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You might remember the “Family Day” events at the Orpheum Theatre where the municipality would sponsor a movie and free popcorn. The Wagners hope to get that going again. Besides movies, they also hope to bring in all types of visual entertainment - comedy shows, the Crowsnest Pass Symphony Orchestra, theatre performances, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show performance by the Twisted Tree theatrical group coming up next weekend.

Former owner Becky Fabro’s voice gets thick with emotion when she talks about all the dreams the Wagners have planned for the Orpheum Theatre. As longtime owner – since 1992 – the theatre remains a sentimental and special place for her.

She even lived on the upstairs floor of the building, right up until 2015, when a fall down the stairs in the middle of the night broke her hip and ultimately gave her no choice but to lease the business.

“I was forced to retire. It wasn’t of my choosing. My kids loved it because at the time I was 62 and they were after me to retire for years and years and I didn’t want to do it. I love to work,” says Fabro, now living in Lethbridge.

Besides being a place where she operated her beloved theatre and a space where she lived, the Orpheum is a place where she made enough memories to fill a book and met all types of people who have touched her life in different ways, like Danny Drain, who stands out prominently in her reminiscence of the theatre. Drain was a regular at the movies, even well into his 80s, and faithfully helped her clean the theatre after each movie he watched at the Orpheum.
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Fabro says she sees much of herself in Allison’s dreams for the Orpheum Theatre, something that may have made the change just a little bit easier.

“I was very sad because my theatre meant a lot to me, so I cried. But I'm very, very happy that she’s got it. She has dreams for the theatre and it kind of makes me turn the clock back 26 years when I was 40 years old and I bought it because her plans just remind me of me,” says Fabro. “She has so many ideas of things she wants to do in there and how she wants to make the theatre work for the community, which I did. I did everything I could to make my theatre available for people of the community and she has visions of that, too. It makes my heart glad that she’s going to love it as much as I did.”

The Wagners are keeping the same price of movie tickets as before, but are adding an additional showtime that starts earlier in the evening to accommodate children.

“Kids have to be in bed for school by 8 or 8:30 p.m., so I wanted to do an earlier show so that kids are able to come and watch it. Kids can’t come at 7, that’s too late,” says Allison, herself a mother of three.

Looking to the future, the Wagners hope to play two different movies each week, a family-friendly one for the earlier showing and more of a “date night” movie for the later time.

Themed days of the week offer something special each day, like Wednesday’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bowl) Night where, with the purchase of a drink, guests get a free popcorn fill of their bowl. Or Thursday’s retro night, where the Wagners hope to travel back in time with a classic black and white film.

The Orpheum Theatre’s grand reopening is on October 26. To celebrate, guests will receive a free small popcorn and be entered in a draw for a family pass. Visit www.crowsnestorpheum.ca for more information.
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October 24th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 43
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