Main Street Kansas

Main Street Kansas: Movie magic still a mainstay in Syracuse

SYRACUSE, Kan. (KSNW) - From its opening in 1930 during the Great Depression to now, almost 90 years later, the look of the Northrup Theatre in Syracuse has not changed much.

"It's pretty much a time capsule," said Mark Davis, vice president of the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. "The walls are what they were."

Its art deco design preserves the historic feel.

"There's so much heart that's gone into this building," said manager, Krista Norton.

"My wife and I had our first date here on January 17, 42 years ago," recalled Davis with a smile

It's just one of many romances that started over popcorn.

"We'd go out for supper, then come to a movie and sit in the way back row," said Syracuse native, Arlene Kirby. "But we were more interested in each other than the movie, I think!"

"One time we even had a couple take their wedding pictures inside here," said Norton. "We're just all one big family."

That's why townspeople came together in the 90's, when it looked like the Northrup family might close the theatre.

The Chamber of Commerce launched an ambitious campaign of car raffles, donations, and a low-interest loan from the local banks to buy the theatre-- almost $63,000 in private money raised by a town of less than 2,000 people.

"And I can remember going to Chamber state meetings, and they'd say, 'How did you do that?'" said Sandy Dikeman, former Chamber executive director. "Well, y'know, we just started, and we just believed we could do it."

They're still doing it. Every time the theatre has to modernize-- from the furnace to the electrical wiring to the digital projection system-- the town teams up to pay for it.

Originally the Northrup Theatre had almost 800 seats, but they were wooden and not too comfortable so the Chamber replaced them with less than 300 wider, more cushioned seats. The city and county pitched in on the funding.

In return, the theatre tries to keep its prices affordable, but with the movie industry taking a bigger cut of the box office sales, managers say it's a struggle to make a profit.

"In the age of Netflix and Hulu and all those, it's a challenge. It's become more challenging to keep theaters like this going," said volunteer, Brett Doze."I think it's important."

Every weekend, as the next generation fills the theatre, they know it's up to them to safeguard its future and keep the screen from going dark for good.


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