For the past few months, Roxy
Theatre-goers have been anxiously awaiting the premiere of a
feature attraction not on the big screen, but on the movie house
floor. And, after a long wait and some patience on the part of
both owners and patrons, new seats have arrived and are certain
to get two thumbs up from big screen fans.
Owner Mike Blakesley is excited
about the changes to the theatre over the past year, as it has
been one of his biggest ventures with it.
His involvement in the Roxy
began years ago. When Blakesley graduated from Forsyth High School
in 1974, he was not certain about what he wanted to do, and he
stayed in his hometown to work for Carquest, the family business
where even today he remains as a salesman/bookkeeper.
When a friend of his quit the
theatre in '76, Blakesley applied for the job of projectionist,
working for owners Don and Georgie Herndon. When they decided
to retire, the couple offered Blakesley and his brother in law
Tom Clifford (who had also been a projectionist) a chance to
purchase the theatre, and they jumped at the opportunity, originally
with the intent of fixing it up and selling it for a profit.
The two immediately embarked
on an ambitious series of remodels and upgrades including new
seats in 1983. The improvements continued even after Blakesley
bought Clifford's share of the business in 1992. Today, Blakesley
continues to operate the theatre along with his wife, Lynn.
Now in its eighth decade, the
theatre is in the process of undergoing a major renovation. Built
in 1930 as a replacement to a silent theatre two doors west of
the Roxy, it has operated continuously since then except for
a short period in the 1960s when it was between owners, and for
a few summers when Forsyth used to have a drive in.
In the time that Blakesley
has owned it, the Roxy has undergone numerous facelifts. Painting
the exterior and replacing the carpet were the first order of
business, but more serious changes followed: automating the projection
booth, updating equipment to stay current with technological
advances, enlarging the lobby, replacing the seats and redecorating
the auditorium, restoring the neon on the marquee, replacing
the screen - twice! - and adding stereo sound. These are the
biggies that Blakesley mentions if you ask about changes in the
Roxy. But nothing quite tops this latest venture.
His newest project new seats
in the main auditorium and new wall coverings, carpet, and flooring
is almost complete, and while they add to viewer enjoyment, they
are also just part of the ownership experience for Blakesley.
A lifelong movie fan, Blakesley
was interested in movies since childhood and used to book films,
usually product documentaries, through his dad's store and show
them to the family. "I had always loved the entertainment
business and really enjoyed the projectionist work too, so operating
a theatre seemed like the perfect thing to do," said Blakesley.
The work suits him as the only bad parts to ownership are occasionally
showing a terrible film and changing the marquee in the winter
cold. "I feel bad charging people for a bad film,"
said Blakesley. And the sign changing on blustery days? "Miserable."
These two downfalls are decisively
overshadowed by the perks. "My favorite thing is to stand
in the back and watch the crowd enjoying the movie, especially
during funny parts," he said. Blakesley also likes bringing
in popular films, since many people don't expect the newest releases
to be in Forsyth, but in recent years, the ability to acquire
these types of shows has become easier. The theatre has a booker
who buys film for it, and each Monday, Blakesley gets a list
of possible choices for the week ahead. The booker begins with
the top choice and tries to get the most popular film.
Area movie goers tend to follow
national trends in terms of what is big, and the Roxy has seen
its biggest crowds for blockbusters like "The Grinch,"
"Titanic," and "E.T."
Blakesley himself is a fan
of action and comedy, but he confessed he has too many favorites
to list (although "The Wizard of Oz," "The Poseidon
Adventure," and Spielberg all came up). "My favorite
movie is any movie that brings in big crowds," he said.
Movie goers now have something
else to draw them into the Roxy, which has been an area favorite
for decades. Aside from the fair prices, the out of this world
popcorn, and the enjoyable atmosphere the Roxy offers its patrons,
viewers can now kick back in style in the auditorium.
For the future, we can expect
changes in the balcony, roof, and bathrooms. For now, we can
count on the doors opening 15 minutes prior to the early show
Friday through Wednesday as the Roxy Theatre brings Hollywood
and beyond to eastern Montana.