Generations of people in and around Forest City have fond memories of watching movies at the Forest Theatre. They remember the great prices for a flick and a bag of popcorn, and the gentle reminders to “get your feet off the seats” as owner Gary Compston patrolled the aisles. Sometimes the reminder was less than gentle for repeat offenders.
The theater closed in 2011 when Compston and his wife, Cathy — ready to retire — were unable to find a buyer to keep it open.
Now, happily, the work of a group of Forest City residents who joined to reopen the theater appears to be paying off.
Forest City Entertainment Inc., a non-profit committee, is spearheading efforts to renovate the Forest. The Forest City Council gave that effort a boost last week when it agreed to contribute $50,000 in TIF funds toward the purchase and improvements.
Forest City Entertainment is tackling the project in two phases. The first is to purchase the building and install digital sound and projection equipment. Improvements will also be made to restrooms, the concession stand and other areas. That phase — estimated to cost about $300,000 — is hoped to be finished before the school year ends so movies can start to be shown again.
The second phase includes a new screen and general renovations to the building, including a new roof, new air-conditioning, etc. It is expected to cost about $200,000.
Lots of other community non-profit groups have been able to take over a closing local theater. Lake Mills, Belmond, Northwood and Clarion all were successful. Garner is in the middle of the process.
They made the effort because a movie theater is an important quality-of-life attribute for a community. In addition, it can help drive economic activity through increased traffic to restaurants and retail stores.
Forest City Entertainment plans to kick its fundraising efforts into high gear this month, to give people, businesses and organizations an opportunity to help save this important business.
We wish Forest City Entertainment well in its efforts and urge area people to consider a gift to this worthy cause.