Varsity Theatre to end free movie night

Cathey explains how the film process works. Image by Daniela Fierro.

Cathey explains how the film process works. Image by Daniela Fierro.

Varsity Theatre first opened its doors to the Canyon community in Sept. 1947. Fast forward 65 years and that same theater now finds itself on the verge of closing those doors permanently if it doesn’t raise almost $100,000 to update the equipment.

“I don’t own the building but I own the business,” Garry Cathey, business owner, said. “I think that a lot of the problem is that since I don’t own the building, people are reluctant to spend money to upgrade it.”

Cathey has been leasing the building from the original owner and running the business since 1994.

“It’s going to be a downer when free movie nights come to an end,” Cathey said. “But I’m thinking we’ve got a least another year before [movie companies] stop releasing films.”

Although the dates are not confirmed when companies will stop releasing films, Cathey said the companies are talking about the third quarter of 2013.

“But last year they said by the first part of 2012,” he said. “So we’re still going.”

Cathey said that even though the Varsity Theatre isn’t the anchor for Canyon, it’s going to slow things down and move things towards Amarillo.

“People will go out to a movie and they’re going to continue to do that, but they’ll have to drive all the way to Amarillo,” Cathey said.

If Cathey were to make $250 a weekend, he would only make a 30-cent profit while the rest of the money would go to the movie companies.

“Most of the money we make is from the concession stand,” he said. “We make enough to be able to keep going on.”

Assistant Director of Student Activities Stephanie Brackett is in charge of contracts for “Free Movie Night” in the theater.

“Every semester when we do evaluations, [Varsity] is consistently ranked the highest on the student’s love,” Brackett said.

She said it would negatively affect the students for the love of Free Movie Night, “not only because of the history of the theatre but because students go there for date night or when they need a break from study.”

Brackett said that she would hate to think there would be no Free Move Night on Sundays and that they have looked into buying the license so they can show movies on campus.

“There are a lot of other issues like weather,” she said. “And we wouldn’t know if off-campus students would show [up].”

Brackett said that she has heard about several groups thinking about having fundraisers to help out the theater.

“I think if we can all give a little we can save this historic building in Canyon,” Brackett said. “I think it would be such a loss if it closed…not only for the University but for the city and the area in general.”

Nursing major Tori Sills has lived in the area her entire life and said it would feel weird if the theatre closed.

“I like that it’s a lot cheaper and inconvenient for students because it’s right on campus,” Sills said. “Its kind of one of those things that it’s an old theater that makes it cool because it’s in a small town.”

Sills said that if they needed funding, WT should help out in raising money for the theater.

“There are a bunch of things that WT can do to help out,” Sills said. “I think college students would want to help in funding and I wouldn’t mind pitching in a couple of dollars.”

Sills said that it is a popular spot for the junior high kids and remembers going herself.

“It’s one of those small town theaters that we would lose a lot if we didn’t have one,” she said. “It’s always been there and I’ve grown up with it.”

Sills said Canyon is complete with its coffee shop, rock and roll shop, the theater and the museum.

“If we don’t have the theater anymore, I don’t know. It’s just sad to think about,” Sills said.

Free Movie Night will start Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. and will continue until the end of the fall 2012 semester.