CONRAD — MTN News recently visited the historic Orpheum Theatre in Conrad and talked with two of the people who work to make it special.
"Well, it certainly is a vital part of entertainment as far as culture but we certainly need to expand our horizons and this theater does that,” said Helen Elliot, founder of the Pondera Arts Council.
The Pondera Arts Council brought the theatre back to life in the 1990s, eventually going digital in 2012. Now the theatre offers an experience that will take you back.
“The acoustics in this place are phenomenal, phenomenal. It’s a different experience from the 'big box' theaters and it's just more personable. You’re not just a face, you’re a patron, and we appreciate everyone that walks through that door because everyone that does, that’s one more week that we are still here,” said Shelba Buffum, the theatre manager.
Helen is happy to see her efforts in the community still running today, "we are just thrilled that the town does support us and that we are trying to provide a service that is very needed in a small town."
The Orpheum website provides more information about the history of the theatre, including this overview.
When constructed in 1917, the Orpheum theatre represented the latest “state of the art” motion picture theatre construction. Audiences were delighted with the main attraction on the opening night in 1918: an orchestra accompanied the silent movie. The theater was on a par with those in Great Falls, Billings, and Butte the advertisements boasted. Kluth, Inc. bought the theater from its original owner in the 1950’s, selling it to Larry Flesch, of Shelby in the 1970’s. As the years passed, Flesch struggled to keep the aging theater in business against competition from new theaters in Great Falls. The building is a testament to the 20th Century... Little by little, the Pondera Arts Council was able to bring life back into the Orpheum Theater and regain the elegance it originally held in order to maintain their goals to bring live musical entertainment and related cultural events to the town of Conrad, Pondera County, and the surrounding rural areas.
Upcoming movies at the Orpheum include "News Of The World" starring Tom Hanks, and "Godzilla vs. King Kong."
WEB EXTRA - take a tour of the theatre: