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Group aims to reopen Indian Lake theater

INDIAN LAKE Nearly two years have passed since the last reel of film lit the screen at the Indian Lake Theater. Despite this fact, you can still sit among its plush red-velvet chairs, close your eyes, and detect the lingering smell of popcorn. With a little patience and imagination, you can even picture the lights dimming as the faint sound of the projector stirs excitement and conversations quickly hush. Today, thanks to the efforts of a local group, and an outpouring of public and private support, the curtain at the Indian Lake Theater is poised to rise again with a grand opening celebration this summer. What began as rumor this fall became reality in December as community residents received a letter that started with the simple words; Dear Neighbor. The letter detailed a plan to reopen the historic theater, and return it to its rightful place as a vibrant community landmark. The key to the plans success was the active involvement of the community, through monetary donations, and the spirit of volunteerism for which Indian Lake was so well known. We wanted to act before somebody else took an interest in it, said Theater Steering Committee President, Ben Strader. When the property went on the market, the last thing we wanted was for someone to come in, gut the seats and screen from it, and turn it into storage units or something like that. With that in mind, the momentum behind the theater project began to build, fueled in large part by a generous $50,000 donation offered by the Hochschild family. Armed with little more than passion and vision, the group has succeeded in matching the donation through an additional $60,000 in contributions, enough to launch the project and make a successful bid for the property. The Main Street icon first opened its doors in 1938 as The Lake Theater, designed by renowned architect, Ward Grover Shippey. Shippeys other works include the Carol Theater in Chestertown, and the Scaroon Manor resort in Schroon Lake. From its inception, the theater was run primarily as a feature-movie house, drawing crowds from all over the North Country. With a theme of Movies and More, its new owners plan to develop the theater into a true community gathering place reminiscent of its heritage, but also catering to the varied needs of the community. Unlike many historical buildings, particularly similar venues throughout the country, the 250-seat theater was meticulously cared for through the years. During the 1990s, the theater received numerous upgrades, due in large part to the success of local groups such as the Cabin Fever Players, who consistently performed to sold-out crowds. Despite its relative age, it boasts a modern 35mm film projection system, immaculate interior, quality sound system, proscenium stage, theatrical lighting system, and concession stand. While feature films will serve as the initial draw of the theater, the not-for-profit group plans a series of public meetings to determine how best to use the theater for the good of the community. We want to let people get creative and open it up to other possibilities, said Strader. The obvious ideas include the movie theater, the Librarys Book and Movie Club, and having more plays here. There are also community events and concerts if we can coordinate with the Adirondack Lake Center for the Arts, who we hope will become a sister-organization. Wed like to work with them closely because they have a long track record of bringing in groups, arts, and performances to the area. With a shortage of public meeting space in Hamilton County, and an eye toward furthering Main Streets economic development, the town of Indian Lake stands as a strong supporter of the project. It was an easy sell, said Town Supervisor and Theater Project Advisor, Barry Hutchins. I think the past experiences weve all had here, and the upgrades that were a result of the theaters past success, got this community up and really excited about what can happen here. When the idea first got out there this fall, you could go anywhere in town and people were talking about it. The thing to remember is that its not just about movies, its really about the experience of coming to a place like this. Were looking at it as a community ownership type of project, added Strader. We want people to think of it is our theater, not their theater. Continuing to secure donations from individuals and businesses will be critical to the groups success, particularly as they seek funding for building upgrades, programming development, and organizational efforts. We also see this project as having an economic benefit to all the businesses in town, Strader said. It will bring people back to Main Street. Movies are part of the magical American tradition. Everybody has fond memories of being in a movie theater when they were a kid. The response to our letter from Indian Lake residents was encouraging and convinced us that this was a viable project. Its a love of movies and the evidence that local groups have shown that this can be a local hub of community activity.

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