Roxy Theater Given Revitalization Grant


In July 1939 the average price of gas was $0.19 per gallon, President Franklin Roosevelt was in his second term, and The Roxy Theater in Cascade showed its first film.

“Nowhere in Idaho is there to be found a finer theater than in Cascade…its perfection, both as to beauty and sturdy construction, as well as from the point of acoustics, is undeniable,” read an article on the theater’s opening in the July 14, 1939 edition of The Cascade News.

The theater was built by Forest Robb for $25,000, receiving a warm welcome from the community and several congratulatory advertisements in The Cascade News.

“The big Zeon signs in front of the theater are visible for a long distance and add a lively metropolitan touch to the town’s main thoroughfare,” the article read. “It will undoubtedly receive a splendid patronage.”

Throughout the years, the theater has been well used, run down, abandoned, rebuilt and rehabilitated by various owners.

Current owners Jason and Trisha Speer have overseen the theater’s most recent renovations, the next of which will include repairs to the marquee that has displayed thousands of titles over the years.

The now 84-year-old theater recently received a $72,000 grant to repair the structure through the Idaho Heritage Trust’s Historic Theater Revitalization program.

Grand funds preserve historically significant buildings, ensure that rural communities have access to the arts and culture and contribute to historic main streets, said Amy Linville, a trustee of the Idaho Heritage Trust.

The program is supported by the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant Program and the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior and the Idaho Heritage Trust. The Roxy was one of nine historic theaters throughout the state to receive funding.

Repairs include new plaster and structural improvements on the lower half of the marquee, which are expected to be completed next summer, Speer said.

The designer responsible for the theater’s style was Hugo Claussen of Salt Lake City, Utah, who decorated several of theaters in the region in a grand Art Deco style to be a blend of old Hollywood glamour and smalltown charm, he said.

“It’s not very complicated, it’s square. But you can tell the influence, there’s a lot of the same feel to things,” Speer said or the Art Deco design.

The Roxy was closed for 11 years in the 1980s, falling into disrepair. The roof had collapsed, and the state of the building was to the point that it should have been torn down, Speer said.

John and Jenny Stanford of Cascade purchased the theater and saved it by “putting way too much money into it,” redoing the building to as close as they could make it to the original, he said.

At that time, the ticket booth, which now sits within the front doors, was the outer wall bordering the sidewalk. What is now the bathroom on the north side and concessions on the south were offices for an accountant and florist.

Speer and his wife Trisha purchased the theater in 2006, remodeling and repurposing the entrance, but the most substantial improvements occurred in 2013 when the couple partnered with philanthropists Mark and Kristina Pickard, the founders of Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade.

The group created the theater as it stands today, replacing the reel-to-reel projector with a 4K projection system and a modern sound system.

The theater’s 415 dilapidated tin seats were replaced with 238 new seats and the stage lights were upgraded from the old car headlights in tin cans that previously illuminated the stage, Speer said.

More restrooms were added, the entire interior was painted, and the roof was replaced with the intention to keep the building in operation for decades to come, he said.

Since Speer took over, the theater has showed almost 40 films per year. It also hosts several live performances, film festivals and events for local community groups.

Unlike most large multi-plex theaters that are beholden to contracts from film companies, the Roxy is an independent theater, and Speer can pick and choose which films to play, selecting titles that fit with community demand or taking a week off if he can’t find the right fit.

“If there’s nothing out there, or a company controls all the titles I want to play, I’ll just close the theater,” Speer said.

Some things about the theater are still run like the 1930s, like ticket sales.

“We open our doors at 6:30 p.m. and the show is at 7 p.m.,” Speer said.

There is no option to buy tickets online or ahead of time.

“If you’re worried about getting a ticket, just get here at 6:30 p.m.,” he said. “It’s just nice and simple.”

The interior of The Roxy Theater. The walls and ceiling have been repainted, but in the original style from 1939. By Max Silverson/The Star-News

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