Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 25, 2013

City of Welch plans to raise funds to save downtown theater

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH — For the past eight years, the bright lights of movie house magic have returned to McDowell Street in Welch courtesy of the Marquee Cinema, but the limelight might be fleeting as the movies move into the digital realm.

“All movies are moving toward digital technology,” Danny Barie, attorney for the city of Welch said. “It’s like a two-edged sword. If you don’t have digital projection, you can’t get the latest releases, and if you don’t get the top releases, you can’t attract people to the movies.”

Welch Mayor Reba Honaker said that having a movie theater in a community remains an important quality of life indicator. “That’s why Mayor (Martha) Moore and city council worked so hard to bring the Marquee Theater to the downtown,” Honaker said. “It’s an important quality of life component just like good schools, attractive housing and quality medical care.”

Honaker said that Curtis McCall, the lease holder on the theater building in downtown Welch told the city that the cost of replacing the three existing projectors would be $172,000.

“Mr. McCall gave us two options and both options involve replacing the projectors,” Honaker said. “The Welch Building Commission is going to meet (today) to discuss the developments. We’re already planning to start raising funds to upgrade the projectors and keep our theater open.”

The city created its Building Commission for the purpose of owning the property that could serve as a theater. When the theater opened in May 2005, huge crowds came out to see movies in downtown Welch again — something that hadn’t been possible since the old Temple Theater closed and the majestic Pocahontas Theater was destroyed by fire.

Honaker said that she recently found a high-resolution photo of McDowell Street in the late 1930s when the street was packed with traffic and the iconic “Theaters” sign stretched between the two theaters.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com