Editorial: Only community can keep Craig’s West Theater open | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Only community can keep Craig’s West Theater open

Craig Press Staff
Craig's West Theater originally opened in 1939 to the movie "Never Say Die” with Martha Raye and Bob Hope, according to the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Northwest Colorado

When Craig’s West Theater opened April 8, 1939, researchers at the Museum of Northwest Colorado say the first movie shown was “Never Say Die” with Martha Raye and Bob Hope.

It was an exciting time to be a Craig resident. The motion picture was still relatively new to the human race, and so a theater back then was a big deal for this small town.

Ask any old-timer in Craig what was the first movie they ever saw in Craig’s West Theater, and they’ll likely tell you. It was a cornerstone of social life in Craig for decades, and it still is.

The cinema was closed during World War II and later remodeled in 1946 for a reopening that next year. Stan Stanfill was the manager.

On March 14, 1984, the building was closed due to a “back wall crumbling and a host of other building and fire code violations” found by City of Craig Building Inspector Dave Dean, according to Museum of Northwest Colorado researchers. Stan Dewsnip was the manager at that time.

In 1987, the then-owner decided to remodel the inside of the theater to make for two viewing rooms instead of one large screen. That helped keep things profitable and the theater continued its storied journey through Craig’s history, surviving the booms and busts, feasts and famine. They carried major movie titles that kept families coming through the doors, buying tickets to a good show along with popcorn and soda. 

Over all those decades, generations have graced our beautiful theater. Parents brought their kids for a quintessential piece of Americana, that special feeling all of us get when visit an old-fashioned theater like Craig’s. The popcorn and soda, the hustle and bustle of excited kids and their parents — families who were raised attending Sunday matinées, kids now old and grey whose fondest memories of our greatest cinematic achievements were born and nurtured in our own film world.

Over the last several weeks, there was some uncertainty regarding the West Theater and its future. The community was abuzz with conversations about who would step up to purchase the theater after long-time owner had passed away. Many individuals expressed their fear that it would end up closing, and current and future residents would no longer be able to go out for a night at the movies.

Thankfully, those fears did not come to fruition and the theater is beginning a new chapter under new ownership.

The owners tell the Craig Press they plan to temporarily close and renovate Craig’s historied theater and keep many of the theater’s dedicated staff whose own family’s story is now intertwined. The owners of our community theater seem to be from Craig and interested in keeping the theater open and profitable.

We hope that the owners are also interested in keeping the original West Theater sign that happily greets drivers as they cruise down Victory Way. The sign in its heyday was aglow with all the light and joy our theater has brought over the years. We would love to see that sign restored to its original glory. The city of Craig’s new business grant program is one way to get some serious financial help for such improvements and facility upgrades, but it will require your own matching funds.

The city’s program isn’t the only available resource the owners could use to improve the theater’s look and profitability. Also, keep in mind all of Moffat County is a designated Colorado Rural Jump Start program zone for up to eight years of rebates for business personal property tax, county sales, and use taxes for tangible personal property used within the zone.

Since the theater’s new owners are local, there are incentives for them to receive a break on their personal property owned in Moffat County.

As long as it does not interfere with renovation or business plans, perhaps an application and designation as a historic building on the national register of historic places would be a means to receive extra grant money to help preserve our theater for generations to come.

It must be said, we are glad Craig’s theater has new owners who seem willing to put the time, energy, and money into Craig’s iconic downtown theater in order to make it truly great. We hope the new owners love the theater as much as Craig the community loves their theater. Perhaps most importantly, we hope the community will show their continued support to the West Theater with their patronage once the new owners decide on a grand re-opening date. Our theater has always been a cornerstone of family life in Craig, so be sure to bring the whole family out as often as you can once the theater reopens.