Because February is “Love Your Theater Month,” it seems fitting to acknowledge what the Operahouse means to DeWitt.
The 142-year-old building that houses the Operahouse has been renovated twice to make it appealing to families and moviegoers of all ages. It is handicapped-accessible, clean, with comfortable seating, digital projection, surround sound and concessions.
It is a community asset that is maintained by a board of directors and operated by managers hired by the DeWitt Theater Co.
But like any building, it requires upkeep and maintenance. The board of directors still must provide for things such as taxes, insurance and major repairs, such as roof and furnace replacements and updated projection equipment, as they become necessary.
The facility is rented to managers Ben and Laura Miers, who are committed to keeping ticket prices and concessions affordable.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the DeWitt Theater Co. is committed to supporting the Miers in keeping the rent as low as possible to cover ongoing costs.
That does not leave much money left over for the inevitable “rainy day.” The board has established an Operahouse Preservation Fund to help build a cushion for those expenses and hopes those who love the local theater will consider contributing to it.
Donations may be made by check, or automatic withdrawals also can be set up for those who would like to make monthly contributions. All are tax deductible. Contact John Jackson, DeWitt Theater Co., c/o First Central State Bank, 914 Sixth Ave., DeWitt, IA 52742, phone (563) 659-3141.
Four DeWitt residents — Ann Birney, Brett McKamey, Bim Prichard and Lindsay Thiel — recently joined the board of directors of the DeWitt Theater Co. They join continuing members, John Peavey, president; Pat Henricksen, secretary; John Jackson, treasurer; as well as Mary Rueter and Al Tubbs.
The nonprofit board is committed to preserving and maintaining the theater building for the enjoyment of the community. That includes providing for such things as the roof, stucco and plumbing repairs, heating and cooling equipment, projection and sound equipment and the cost of normal wear-and-tear items such as paint and floor coverings.
The DeWitt Theater Co. was formed in 1979, after community leaders raised $25,000 to purchase the then-Majestic Theater and save it from demolition.
Operating as the DART (DeWitt Area Restoration of the Theater) Committee, they raised funds to renovate the 1878 building.
After a successful fundraising effort and plenty of sweat equity by local residents, the theater reopened in 1982 as the Operahouse Theatre. It was renovated a second time in 2007 to provide an expanded lobby and handicapped-accessibility.
Through the years, the board of directors has leased this nonprofit venue for movies, travelogues, stage performances, community gatherings, and other events.
Thiel said she is impressed that a small town like DeWitt has its own theater that runs first-rate, new-release movies at great prices.
“It’s a great draw to DeWitt and a great perk for our community,” Thiel said.