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A comfy place to sit

Webster Theater debuts new seats

October 14, 2016

There's a new sense of comfort at the Webster Theater these days. New seats were installed in September and are getting rave reviews from patrons who have had the opportunity to put them to the test.

The new seats are a little wider, have a little more padding and the rows are spaced out a little more to offer maximum leg room. For additional comfort or for those who might wish to cuddle up a little, the arms between the seats can be raised.

The theater closed for a week during the installation project. In that time, the old seats were removed, the floors were cleaned and painting was done. The new seats were assembled and installed in time to open again on for the Friday night movie on Sept. 16.

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There's still a little work left to be done. Carpet runners will be replaced in the auditorium. The total cost for the seats, paint and carpeting was about $75,000. HERO Board members said those funds came from Hotel/Motel Tax grant money, but mostly from private donations.

"We think the addition of the seats will make this theater the premiere theater in this area," said Kay Ross, HERO Board member. "We have the best projector and sound system, the biggest screen and now the best seats."

Ross said it was the board's hope that any future maintenance or repairs will be able to be made on their own because these amenities continue to bring large movie audiences.

The Webster Theater officially opened its doors in September 2014 after a successful fundraising campaign. The HERO Board purchased the building and remodeled the movie theater including the installation of a new digital projector. They raised funds through an adopt-a-seat promotion and a crowd-funding project. There were also stars of varying sizes which donors could purchase to have their names placed on the lobby wall.

The Webster Theater is one of many small town Iowa movie houses that have remodeled and opened as a community-run facility. Members of the HERO Board visited many of those theaters to see how they were operated.

"Chamber Director Deb Brown and I traveled to a ton of community-operated theaters," said Jeff Pingel. "That's what convinced us that this model would work. Belmond has been doing this since the 1990s."

Pingel said the audiences have remained very steady in the Webster Theater's two years of operation.

"There are always lows and highs of the movie season," he said.

"But we had a new high this summer with 'Finding Dory,' and then 'The Secret Life of Pets' broke that record a week later," said Ross. "That was over 1,000 people in a week."

Board member Tyler Abens said the board wanted to continue to encourage good attendance.

"And that's what allows us to keep our ticket prices and concessions low," said Abens. "We want people to continue to make movie night a habit."

Board member Zach Chizek said people don't seem to mind the two-week wait from when a movie is released to when local theater is able to schedule showings.

"It's becoming a habit. More and more people in the community are saying that they are used to waiting. They see the preview and they just know if it's coming here, they'll wait," he said.

Abens said the theater makes for a convenient and affordable date night venue or family movie night. "Save gas, save on tickets, save on concessions."

Board member Brian Miller said the group will continue to "think outside of the box" when it comes to special promotions and events.



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