Chris Lani and Don Purinton have turned in a letter of intent to purchase the Ely Central Theater. (File photo)

Chris Lani and Don Purinton have turned in a letter of intent to purchase the Ely Central Theater. (File photo)

By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer
The Ely Central Theater’s future is secure, though it will be different than its current use. Theater Manager Chris Lani and Don Purinton turned in an intent to purchase the theater, which will become effective in March of next year.

The theater currently plays first run movies, but will change to play second run movies.
“The real driving force behind it is flexibility,” Lani said. “With playing first run movies, we’re hamstrung into playing one movie or two movies at most a night, every night. That excludes having live music at that time, football, anything like that it’s usually in the meat of the evening so we can’t get around it.”

By going to second run movies, Lani said he’s researching getting live theater, musical acts and showing live sports to provide more of a variety of entertainment options to the public.

“I think it will be a mix of a performing arts center and a local pub in a way in terms of we’ll be doing sports and everything,” Lani said. “It will cover all the bases and try to address the needs of all the community, not just part of it.”

When deciding on how to make the Central Theater successful for the long-term, other theaters across the country provided a blueprint for the Central Theater to follow over the coming years.

“Mainly it was the successful models of other theaters that are similar to our setup,” Lani said. “A lot of historical theaters, the Austin, the Arcadia Theater, the McMenamin brothers in Portland (Oregon) are a perfect example of highly successful second run movie theaters.”

Going second run could also allow the theater to show multiple movies per week and have a mix of children’s movies and movies aimed at more mature audiences each and every week. And it will allow ticket prices to remain at the same levels they are now, Lani said.

But just having a plan for the future wasn’t enough. Lani said he wouldn’t have stayed if he didn’t find someone who he felt comfortable and working with. Purinton, Lani’s father-in-law, fit that bill and shared a vision for the theater’s future.

“Don cares a lot for this community,” Lani said. “He’s local and someone I can work with and loves the theater and feels like it would be a shame to close.”

As the theater draws closer to changing ownership, Lani said he hopes to close the theater for a month or two in early 2014 to clean and make various improvements to the theater.

There’s also a possibility of turning the theater into a nonprofit organization in order to apply for grants to help with making larger improvements to the theater.

“It could be we’ll shut down for a month or two just to get the carpets cleaned, new doors, cleaning the seats and all of those things that we can’t do if we’re open every night,” Lani said.

Despite some struggles along the way because of changing standards in the movie industry and other various factors, the Central Theater’s future appears to be secure. And while its days as a first run movie theater may be numbered, the trade-off could help the theater become one of eastern Nevada’s premiere entertainment venues and one that can provide Ely with everything from plays to movies to live bands and sporting events and more, Lani said.

“There are so many things that could happen and so many possibilities,” Lani said. “It’s a good building.”
For more information about the Central Theater, please call 775-289-2202 or visit the theater’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/elyscentraltheater.