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Local non-profit purchases The Rex


August 27, 2020

Miriah Kardelis

THE REX THEATER on Thompson Falls's Main Street is under new ownership as of July 15. The nonprofit Thompson Falls Film and Theater Foundation purchased the theater earlier this summer.

It is often said, with a small town, comes a valued sense of community. A place where neighbors come together and support one another, all working towards the common good. Such words run true for our little town of Thompson Falls. A truly hidden gem in Montana; where no more than 1,500 people have the honor of calling this neck of the woods, home.

When the Rex was built in 1939, it was, and remains to this day, a pillar of strength for the community. When the previous owners, Doug and Karen Grimm, made the difficult decision to sell the venue, the Rex Theater faced the hard reality of having to close its doors for good. That was until a small group of people stepped in and did everything in their power to breathe new life into the theater. On July 15, 2020, Thompson Falls Film and Theater Foundation, a non-profit 501c3 organization, purchased the Rex Theater for the community.

In a press release, the Thompson Falls Film and Theater Foundation states, "the 501c3 purchased the theater from Doug and Karen Grimm because, 'every small town needs a theater.' This community owes a debt of gratitude to the Grimms, who, through their hard work and dedication, preserved this landmark theater for the community and has now entrusted us to continue the legacy for future generations."

While the purchasing of the Rex has been an uphill battle, as the group has tried various means to secure funding in order to purchase the building; a 501c3 served as an alternative to the "for profit" business the previous, now dissolved, Rex Theater group proposed. "We felt we could approach this project as a 501c3, which allows for more community involvement," Charlie Munday said. "There are no owners here, the community owns this theater," he continued. "This theater will not survive unless the community gets behind it."

The foundation envisions the theater to be a continued place for community gatherings and events. "We would love to see a church here on Sunday mornings, memorial services, weddings, talent shows, motivational speakers for corporate venues, and private events – the potential is unlimited," the foundation said in the press release. The foundation also plans to help stimulate the economy by hiring local contractors for the renovations, and will be creating future employment opportunities for the community.

As far as what is next for the Rex Theater; the organization's plans for renovations and upgrades, is followed by the dream to show first run movies down the road. "Just like the Rialto Theater in Deer Lodge, the Babcock in Billings, the Belt Theater in Belt, and the Washoe Theater in Anaconda, it will take our entire community to save this theater," the foundation stated.

As with any small town, support from the locals is crucial for success. The foundation is asking for our help. "There is so much to get done," Debbie Wilson said about the volunteer coordinator position they are looking to fill. Wilson says they are looking to find three to five small groups of volunteers to help with single aspects of the numerous projects they are working on. "We welcome the community involvement. Everyone has a talent they can contribute here," Wilson said.

As the Rex Theater has hopes in the community helping them succeed, in return, the theater has the same plans for the community. From promoting the arts, highlighting local culture, giving the youth a safe place to gather, as well as creating the ability to award two annual scholarships for Sanders County students who are planning to pursue higher education in a field relative to the performing arts. Input is welcome and encouraged from the entire community as the Rex ventures into the next chapter.

"There are 566 people in Belt, Montana, and that community saved their theater. We can do the same," Munday said. "All we are, is an extension of this town."

An open house has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 26. Businesses can donate to the open house raffle, and in return, will receive free advertising in the event program.

Call (406) 848-1766 for more information, and visit the Rex Community Theater Facebook page, or for updates as the foundation leads the way in saving this beloved icon- the Rex Theater.


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