Small-Town Theater Looks To Happy Ending After Fire

Jun 8, 2012

One small-town movie theater is looking for a happy ending to what could have been a horror story earlier this year. The historic Palace Theatre in Silverton, Oregon closed its doors after an April fire. But repairs are underway at the Depression-era movie palace. Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

The Palace Theatre is one of those classic, stylish, downtown movie houses. It opened in the 1930s, when people lined up to see movies like "The Wizard of Oz" on the silver screen.

But present-day movie-lovers in this small Willamette Valley town had a bit of a scare this year when their beloved Palace Theatre almost met the same fate as the Wicked Witch of the West.

In the end, the snack bar took the brunt of the blaze.

"The valiant popcorn machine gave its life and its coconut oil in the fire. It was destroyed and basically turned into a puddle," says Stu Rasmussen, co-owner of the Palace.

He's also the mayor of Silverton. In fact, he briefly made national headlines in 2008 when he became what many believe is the first transgendered mayor in America. He's now in his second term. These days, locals are just as likely to ask him about the theater as they are about City Hall.

Rasmussen: "In the weeks after the fire, daily, people would stop me on the street and say 'Stu, what can we do? When can we come and help?' It just touches at your heart."

It turns out, insurance is expected to cover virtually the entire cost of repairing the theater. But with so many offers of cash and elbow grease rolling in, Rasmussen and his business partner decided to encourage people to donate to the Silverton Fire Department instead.

Fire investigators determined a spark from a frayed wire started the blaze. Rasmussen says if repairs continue at their current pace, the Palace could re-open by Labor Day.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network