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Delaware Community Raises Money To Save Beloved Theater

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Clayton Theatre
Delaware's Clayton Theatre

People in Dagsboro, Del., have been going to the Clayton Theatre to watch movies for 65 years. The Clayton is a living monument to the single-screen theaters that used to dominant the landscape of this country, but now its the last of its kind in Delaware.

Last year, after Hollywood announced it would do away with 35 mm film and go digital, it left old theaters all over the country, including the Clayton, scrambling to raise tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade their equipment and avoid being essentially phased out of business.

Joanne Howe owns the Clayton, and she says it's both moving and astonishing that the community found a way to raise more than $60,000 dollars to save the theater. "Almost from the beginning, we had this positive outlook that we could make it, but right at the start, I wasn't too sure," Howe says with a laugh.

Charlie Thorne has been operating the projectors here at the Clayton for almost 50 years. He used to have to change seven or eight reels during the course of a two-hour movie on the fly. Now he just has to press one button. "It's the wave of the future, and they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks," Thorne says. "Well, I guess you can."

Now, the past and the present sit side by side in the control room at the Clayton, as an original 35 mm reel-to-reel projector quietly collects dust next to the new high-tech digital machine that Charlie and Joanne hope will help take a new generation of folks in Dagsboro to the movies.

Image courtesy Clayton Theatre

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