BY DEBRA FERRELL
Star-Tribune Staff Writer
After owning/operating the Gretna Theatre for the past 15 years on Main Street in Gretna, Donald and Marie Young have made the difficult decision to close the theatre. It has been listed with a real estate agent and is for sale.
“It is my prayer that someone will buy it that will continue to operate it as a theatre,” she said on Thursday.
As with many other businesses, COVID-19 took a heavy toll. “We shut the theatre in March 2020 when the coronavirus struck our country so hard. We were closed much of the year until July when we tried to reopen. You couldn't really get new movies then, so we were showing some old favorites such as Star Wars,” she recalls. “It was too early to open and was a financial hardship because we had payroll to meet plus other expenses. We've been closed ever since.”
She says they've had the opportunity to rent the building out for private events, but decided not to.
After all these years and all of the hard work and money devoted to the theatre, it is certainly not an easy decision to make.
She and Donald, are both near 70, and stay busy with other things such as running the Sparkle and Shine Car Wash in Gretna, handling rental properties, and running a farm filled with lots of animals.
“While the theatre has been shut down, I've also battled breast cancer and gone through treatments for that. I'm doing fine now, but it makes me think that we're not young anymore and have a lot to things to devote our time to. None of us are promised tomorrow.”
She has an office upstairs at the car wash and spends a lot of time there working plus volunteering. They've also had time to spend with their family and friends during the COVID-19 era.
The couple moved to Gretna in 2005 permanently from the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
They set their sights on an old storefront and decided to gut it and turn it into a theatre. Donald has a construction background and was very capable of turning their dream into a reality. They used their own money for this project.
Through the years it has housed a variety of events including movies, plays, live music, and even benefits and fundraisers for various causes and individuals in the community.
“We have had numerous benefits for different causes or individuals that needed community support,” Marie adds.
For a period of time, every month, the theatre hosted a live bluegrass performance that was a huge hit with the community.
Every third Wednesday of the month, the theatre hosted a senior day where senior citizens received admission to a movie, popcorn, and a drink.
In the 15 years since the theatre opened, the display of movies had to evolve from the 1950s-era technology to digital, a format the theatre had no choice but to switch to in 2014 after it was announced that films would no longer be sent in using analog technology.
“We had to invest in digital, because that was the only way the movies were going to start coming in,” Marie recalls.
As she looks back on her experience running the theatre, Marie says her favorite memories are of the children who visited and worked at the theatre, as well as her “theatre family” at large.
“Working with them so much, you grow to love them like they are your very own,” she explains. “We’ve met and we’ve gotten to know a lot of people and their families. For this we are thankful.”