Editorial: Prineville theater deserves community investment

It can be difficult for the owners of movie theaters in small communities to keep their doors open under the best of circumstances, and doing so in a rapidly changing industry only makes the task harder. Just ask the owners of Prineville’s Pine Theater.

Oniko and Ali Mehrabi reopened the only theater in Crook County five years ago, after it had been shuttered for 25 years. At the time, the switch to digital from 35 mm film already had begun, but the couple still could find plenty of movies available in the traditional format.

They won’t be able to much longer, unfortunately, and if the theater and its two screens are to survive, the Mehrabis will have to replace their old 35 mm projectors with new digital equipment, at a cost of $80,000. They’ve turned to the community to raise that money, and with just days to go, they’ve cut the need by three-quarters.

Still, they have about $20,000 to go, and without further community support, they’ll be unable to get it.

That would be a real loss to Prineville.

Driving 35 miles to Bend — or even the 20 miles to Redmond — just to go to a movie takes a real commitment. If you go at night, you’ll drive home in the dark. In winter, the weather can be a factor. If you’re a 16-year-old, mom and dad may simply say the drive is too far even in good weather. Meanwhile, in a community with relatively few evening entertainment options, a theater can go far to answer the “what can we do tonight?” question.

If the Pine Theater is to keep its doors open and keep the movie option available, the community will have to dig deeper into its own pockets, and quickly. There are good reasons for doing so, kids being only one of them.

Would-be donors should look at their gifts as a community investment, a way to provide safe and relatively inexpensive activities for all residents of Prineville. With that thought in mind, writing a check today can make a difference now and in the future.