Waynesboro Theatre: 2020 title: Rocky Road
If Waynesboro Theatre 2020 was a movie, it could have had a title of “Rocky Road.”
Like everyone and nearly everything, Waynesboro’s single-screen theatre at 75 W. Main St. was greatly affected by the global pandemic of COVID-19.
State-ordered restrictions closed the downtown gem most of the year. It then lost its tenant in July.
But just as in most Hollywood movies, this story has a happy ending. The Waynesboro Community Theatre Project (WCTP), the nonprofit group that owns the theater, held steady in 2020; raising money and spirits to help the theater land on its feet as the year ends.
The major fundraiser was a drive-in movie double-feature at the Borough of Waynesboro’s Rotary Parking Lot in September. It attracted more than 100 vehicles and had the support of many generous sponsors.
The effort allowed WCTP to maintain the theatre building and pay bills left by the previous tenant. Most importantly, it enabled the group to purchase all the equipment in the building that it did not already own.
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” said Mainstreet Waynesboro Director Bill Kohler. Kohler is also president of the Waynesboro Community Theatre Project.
WCTP purchases a digital projector, commercial popcorn popper, ice machines and other equipment vital to the movie-going experience.
The organization recently received a $5,605 grant from the federal CARES Act funding administered by Franklin County. The money comes from funds designated by the Franklin County Commissioners for tourism entities.
“That grant will help us get the theatre back open, purchase supplies and the equipment we need to show movies,” Kohler said.
WCTP and Mainstreet Waynesboro combined efforts to reopen the theatre for three Christmas movies before the state tightened its pandemic restrictions on Dec. 12 and ordered all entertainment venues, including theaters, to close.
Money raised from the sale of a series of six holiday movies benefitted WCTP and Mainstreet, both nonprofits. The fundraiser sold over 300 tickets for showings of “The Polar Express,” “Christmas Story” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
Showings of “Love Actually,” “Elf ” and “Frozen” are scheduled for January and February.
“Hats off to the support of Steve Beck, who served as president of WCTP from 2014 to 2019; and our current board members who have been instrumental in shepherding the theatre through this rocky period,” Kohler said.
Beck, a driving force since 2015, continues to play a major role at the theater, Kohler said.
Kohler also praised local community members and businesses who have supported the theatre financially and with in-kind donations.
“Like we did in 2015 when the theater was renovated, this was a community effort,” Kohler said.
Meanwhile, WCTP is looking for a group or person to manage the movie theatre once restrictions subside; and to honor season passes that were the group’s only fundraiser until this year.
“We have some big plans and dreams for 2021,” Kohler said. “But we will be taking this one week at a time, like everyone else,” Kohler said.