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Arts Council wants your help for Colonial Theater centennial

Idaho Falls

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Colonial Theater | Courtesy Amy Carr

IDAHO FALLS — The Colonial Theater on A Street is turning 100 years old next year, and the Idaho Falls Arts Council needs your help to make it a great celebration.

The anniversary is on Nov. 10, and the Arts Council is hosting several events leading up to that day. It is also putting together an exhibition of “photos, artwork and memories that people had of the theater,” said Amy Carr, council marketing manager.

The council wants people who remember the theater’s heyday, whether they worked at the theater or watched shows there, to submit memories for the exhibition. These memories will be put together in a book, and the artwork and photos will be displayed.

In January or February, the council will host a roundtable for people to come and share their memories of the theater. There is no hard deadline for when the memories are due at this moment, but be prepared to get them in by February.

Those wishing to contribute memories or artwork should contact Carr at (208) 522-0471.

The centennial celebration will also include a few events spaced throughout the year. Carr said the council won’t disclose a lot of details right now — more information will be released in the spring — but residents should expect a street party to kick off the centennial, a big-name show in the fall and possibly a celebration gala.

Board member Terry Miller told one thing he is hoping to find out from the shared memories is why there is a swan motif around the theater. There used to be a swan-like statue attached to the front of the building that has since been moved to the Willard Arts Center on the corner of A Street and Capital Avenue. The inside of the theater has several swan shapes as well.

Colonial Theater in the 1990s | Courtesy Amy Carr

Called the Colonial after first opening in 1919, it was rechristened as the Paramount Theater from 1929 to 1980. After that, the name was returned to the original. It seats 998 people and began as a vaudeville theater. Vaudeville theater usually involves different, usually comedic, acts from separate performers. The Idaho Falls Arts Council owns and operates it today.

Memories of the Colonial Theater

Two people who worked at the theater in the 1980s shared some of their memories with

Kent Lott, who was a projectionist for the theater beginning in 1982, clearly remembers the smell of tobacco from Ford’s Bar, which is still next door to the Colonial, wafting into the theater. He said it was an “old, fun theater,” but really creepy with all the lights turned off.

Another local, Kent Wood, bought the theater in 1986. It had fallen into a state of disrepair. Wood remembers finding all the old theater trappings — curtains and catwalks — stuffed into the back behind the movie screen. Water had leaked into the old dressing rooms, and the bill from the natural gas boiler was through the roof. Wood and his partners fixed the theater up even though they were only planning to run it for a few years and converted the boiler back to coal-burning.

Both Lott and Wood remember the old projectors the theater had. Lott remembers working with carbon arc projectors, but Wood said by the time he bought the building, the theater had switched over to xenon bulbs, which are safer and last longer, but he they could cost up to $900 apiece.

Wood built the new Paramount Theater in 1989. The Idaho Falls Arts Council received the theater from a donator in 1994, renovated the building and now uses it for a variety of activities, including concerts, recitals and weddings.

The Idaho Falls Arts Council is a private nonprofit, so most of the funding for the centennial will come from sponsorships, grants and private donations.