Nonprofit Fallon theater blends old and new
February 14, 2017
The nonprofit Fallon Community Theatre, Inc. is officially the new owner of the downtown movie house on Maine Street.
Formed in 2014 to eventually purchase the theater, the nonprofit formally bought the facility in January — a sale made possible by a Community Development Block Grant awarded last year through the city of Fallon.
The nonprofit also offers a sustaining membership program to preserve and restore the theater. For a $20 per month donation (or $240 lump sum annual donation), moviegoers may choose admittance twice per month with a guest or unlimited single admittance. Membership also includes admittance to any of the theatre's special events and showings.
The nonprofit's board said it's aiming for 400-500 members.
"We hope by getting those numbers it will be sufficient income to sustain the theater," said Dr. Stuart Richardson, board member and former theater owner.
Richardson took on the theater for two years with the goal being to form the nonprofit and receive the grant.
"Somebody had to come in and keep it running," he said about one of the oldest, continuously operating theaters in the state.
Theater-sustaining members will also receive a newsletter, movie schedule and event updates.
Board members Nancy Upham and Mike Berney touched on how supporting the theater is a nostalgic, worthwhile effort for many people.
"Carla had her first kiss here," Upham said of board member Carla Kent, and Berney said many residents remember working at the theater or their children working there — from manning the ticket booth to the production booth.
The board also wants to encourage individuals to participate in the theater's offerings and continuing restoration.
"The need for people is big," said board member Glen Perazzo.
Perazzo said the board hopes to offer an improve troupe, karaoke nights, a "battle of the bands" and Smash Brothers video game events. It also plans to host live-stream events including baseball's World Series, the Super Bowl and various fights, plus tailgate parties for the University of Nevada, Reno, Fallon Alumni Chapter.
Other events revolve around holidays; for example, there were John Wayne movies for Nevada Day and for Valentine's Day there will be a showing of Casablanca.
"The greatest movie of all time," Richardson said smiling.
The theater's technology has been updated to digital as well as networked for its live-streaming capability including the top-notch video and sound system. For stage productions, a large spotlight has been installed with another on the way.
"We'll work with you and help out if needed," Perazzo said of recruiting people interested in hosting or helping with different event types.
Perazzo added someone could lead the UNR tailgate festivities or create a production. The board said with Fallon's, help it could give the community a wide variety of activities as well as an even better aesthetic.
Already, Berney said, volunteers have donated numerous hours to the building. Businesses around town have also helped. Efforts have included the quilting club and others reupholstering the seats as well as a group who pulled out some of the seating to make the rows more comfortable.
A year ago, Perazzo, Upham, Quinn Nuffer and Yvonne Sutherland fixed up the marquee and overhang. The project included removing pigeon guano build-up, repairing damaged tracks and Plexiglas, painting, welding as well as replacing light bulbs, marquee letters and the overhang's chandeliers.
Vaudeville actors J.W. and Maybelle Flood constructed the theater as a vaudeville venue and silent movie house in 1920 to replace their existing theater built in 1911. Frederic DeLongchamps, a respected and prolific Nevada architect, created the 1,150-capacity space that drew prominent Reno residents. Tweaked in 1930 to eliminate the balcony and offer 500 stadium seats, the theater received a Spanish motif and was renamed Fallon Theatres.
A Christmas Eve fire in 1939 fought by the Fallon Volunteer Fire Department gutted the northeast corner of the building, and the structure experienced a second, less damaging fire in the mid 1940s. It also survived the summer of 1954 earthquake — while under repair, though, a widescreen was installed.
Different owners gave the theater facelifts including splitting the auditorium into two to offer more films. And with the institution of the snack bar disappeared the need to go next door to the ice cream shop. Surviving economic downturn and expensive upgrades, the historic theater still stands tall.
Being a nonprofit now, Upham said, the theater can apply for more grants. Berney added funding would help continue to revitalize the building.
Richardson said two 35-milimeter-film projectors from the 1950s and 1960s lasted well over 50 years for Fallon. It was only in 2015 the theater went digital.
Those who want to be involved are encouraged to visit the theater or reach out via http://www.fallontheatre.com or on Facebook under "Save the Fallon Theatre." When participating, volunteers can use #400Saves on social media to help spread the word about the theater-sustaining membership program.