by Billy Donati, KRTN Multi-Media
RATON — A celebration of the new digital cinema system at the Shuler Theater took place on Friday, November 3rd as stakeholders and fans came together to watch the world premiere of Thor Ragnarok.
A good crowd was on hand for both the pre-show reception at the nearby Castillo Performing Arts Center and at the Shuler including Daniel Gutierrez, Assistant Director of NM MainStreet; Diana Sanchez, President of Raton MainStreet; Brenda Ferri, Raton MainStreet Director; Raton Mayor Pro-Tem Neil Segotta; and Commissioners Linde Schuster, Don Giacomo and Ron Chavez; and City Manager Scott Berry. Other partners in the project include the Sonic Company, architect Dave Little and Alpha Design, local install contractor Tim Bird and N&K Electric, Shuler Restoration Board, and the co owners of El Raton Theater, Kerry and Chrisy Medina, Ted and Tracy Kamp and Neil and Donna Emiro and their families who took it upon themselves to purchase El Raton Theater 10 years ago.
The new system came about because of a conversation some three years ago with Medina, one of the owners of El Raton Theater and how difficult having only one screen could be in negotiations and obtaining movies from the studios. That led to another conversation later with Mark Roper of the NMEDD and a former Raton resident which then led the city to apply for the LEDA local economic development funds.
Then the Shuler received a huge 100th birthday present as NM Economic Department Cabinet Secretary, Jon Barela visited Raton on April 20, 2015 and announced the awarding of $100,000 in Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds, which was part of the New Mexico MainStreet Historic Theater Initiative from the New Mexico Economic Development Department.
The New Mexico Historic Theaters Initiative is part of an ongoing statewide effort led by the Economic Development Department and New Mexico MainStreet to rehabilitate historic theaters and install new digital projection and sound equipment to prevent them from going dark.
Nationwide, many small town theaters have closed their doors because of the high cost of digital projection equipment. Besides the loss of a business anchor in downtown districts, the loss of an entertainment venue has negative impacts on quality of life, retail leakage and community morale.
Economic Development Department has made grants to six publicly owned classic theaters throughout New Mexico. These include the Luna Theater in Clayton, the Silco Theater in Silver City, the Lea Theatre in Lovington, the Shuler Theater in Raton, the El Morro Theater in Gallup and the Lyceum Theater in Clovis. Each historic theater has been identified as a catalytic economic driver for their respective community.
The Shuler Theater hosted the first ever NM New Mexico MainStreet Historic Theaters Institute in June of 2015.
In its 102 year history, the Shuler Theater has always been a performing arts space, but not so well known is that its primary function also has been that of a movie house. Literally thousands of movies have been shown since 1915, but as a movie house, the Shuler had not been equipped to show first run movies since the early 1950’s.