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Elmira Heights Theater - January 2003
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Article: Elmira Heights Theater Reopens 
Elmira Heights, Chemung County, NY
January 2003
Elmira Star - Gazette
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Heights Theater reopens soon
- Single-screen movie house also expected to offer live concerts.
By G. JEFFREY AARON
Star-Gazette
jaaron@stargazette.com
ELMIRA HEIGHTS -- Sometime early this month, Archibald Asparagus, Larry the Cucumber and other "VeggieTales" cast members are scheduled to make their local debut at the newly refurbished Heights Theater.
 

MILES B. NORMAN/Star-Gazette
Craig Spencer has worked for eight months to reopen the Heights Theater, Chemung County's last single-screen theater. "Jonah," a "VeggieTales" movie, will be the theater's first movie this month.

The characters are part of "Jonah," a full-length animated movie loosely based on the Bible story of Jonah and the whale.

The movie, produced by Big Ideas Productions Inc. of Lombard, Ill., is the first film to be shown when the theater reopens, tentatively scheduled for the first week of January.

The village of Elmira Heights has issued an occupancy permit but the county Health Department has not.

Other films and small-venue concerts are also planned for the facility.

The debut, on what may be Chemung County's largest movie screen, will mark the end of Craig Spencer's eight-month project to reopen the vintage movie house.

The building on East 14th Street in Elmira Heights was built in the art deco style in 1949 by Frederick W. Schweppe. It could seat 722 patrons. Schweppe owned and operated several other Elmira-area movie theaters during that era.

With its 28-foot screen, the Heights Theater is Chemung County's last single-screen movie house.

It's also the only theater in the county south of the Arnot Mall in Big Flats, which houses a 10-screen Hoyt's Cinemas.

"The (theater's) impact can only be a plus," said acting Village Mayor Art Caparula. "It will bring a lot of attention to the 14th Street business area and benefit all of the businesses there because it's bringing in people."

Spencer, who also owns The Feed Stores in the village and Painted Post, bought the closed theater in May and immediately set about renovating it.

"The building was in bad shape," he said. "The ceiling had fallen in, the chairs were messed up and the carpet had holes in it."

It took more than 170 gallons of paint, 800 pounds of plaster, several rolls of carpet, a 500,000 BTU boiler and a long list of other supplies to return the 54-year-old theater to its former self, Spencer said.

Other work includes renovating the concession area and bathrooms, updating the sound system, reupholstering the seats, installing a roll-up screen, rebuilding the original projector and adding a video projector.

"We tried to keep the building as close to the original appearance as possible," he said.

Two full-time and 10 part-time employees will work at the theater when it opens.

Spencer is also planning to hold small concerts at the theater, which will retain its original seating capacity.

Previous concerts he has promoted have been held at local churches or the Clemens Center, such as a February concert by contemporary Christian recording artist Scott Kirppayne.

The show, held at the Clemens Center, drew about 1,000 fans.

"We broke even, but when I have my own venue, the concerts will be more profitable than if I had to rent a facility," Spencer said.

"Kirppayne has a new album coming out and I hope to have him back. I also want to open it to local talent and bring in talent from other areas."


- HIT: Heights Theater ready for new life
The Heights Theater's art deco style gives it a nostalgic, small-town feel. The theater in the village of Elmira Heights soon could have a busy feel as parents and their children fill the seats for the "VeggieTales" film.
Credit Craig Spencer and his persistence to reopen the 722-seat theater, which is Chemung County's last single-screen movie house. The reopening will add another nugget to Elmira Heights' business district.

Spencer's effort reflects a trend that's happening in other communities. Community supporters like Spencer have found new lives for old theaters, bringing back memories and childhood magic.

Spencer hopes to attract concerts and other events. It's the type of energy that can only benefit Elmira Heights.

It's also the type of energy and visionary thinking that's lacking in Elmira, which has an empty theater but no plans for its use.

Here's hoping the vintage Heights Theater reaches new ones.
The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933   histcent83@gmail.com