Restoration Project Underway for Rodgers Theatre

July 20, 2005 – Posted at 6:26 p.m. CDT

POPLAR BLUFF, MO -- You can call it the picture show, the talkies, the flicks or the movies, but it's been the main source of entertainment for Americans since the first film story, The Great Train Robbery in 1903. 
In one Region 8 community, the marquee lights may be out, but the memories haven't faded.
The Rodgers Theatre opened at the corner of Broadway and Pine in June of 1949 and the first movie to grace its screen was Red Canyon. Since then it's been home to movies, theatre and memories.
“I can remember going to the movies with my dad and my brother, and we saw a movie called Supercop,” said Poplar Bluff native Chris Waite.
“I took my mom to the Rodger’s Theatre, and we got to see Gone With The Wind there.  It was such a beautiful theatre to see, because the screen was so big,” reminisced Betty Shalk.
Jim Flanigan of Qulin said he remembered going while he was in Junior High, “It was where a bunch of us from school met to go watch movies together. It was the place to go and be seen.”
The theatre closed in January of 1999, when owners Kerasotes Theatres built a new facility on Highway 67 South. Kerasotes gave the building to Butler County, and the last two movies shown were Major League and Wild Things.
Today, the 11,648 square foot building houses government offices for Butler County. Now the theater only shows theatre productions and concerts on stage.
“When the owners, Kersotes, moved to their new location, and the county took over, one of the agreements that they reached that there would be no movies shown here,” said John Chervenak who is part of the Rodgers Theatre restoration project.
The project is trying to breath new life into the building, but it's estimated that the cost will be between $1.5 and $4 million dollars.
“They are really trying to get some funds built up right now, to first of all not allow the building to deteriorate anymore than it already has.  Secondly they can apply for matching grants,” said Dille & Traxel architect Benjamin Traxel who is working on the restoration project. 
 The cost of memories is priceless.
“The way the marquee stands out and anytime a movie was playing, you wanted to come buy a ticket.  The lights would be flashing. The chasers would be running around here, and it was just a neat place to be,” remembered Traxel.
 Just about everyone in Poplar Bluff has a Rodgers Theatre memory.
“We went to see Old Yeller,” said Shalk.
 “My favorites at the theatre were Scream and Titanic,” said Flanigan.
“I remember Jaws, Rocky and Star Wars,” said Traxel.
Donations can be made to the Rodgers Theatre Renovation Fund. You can send donations to P.O. Box 1656, Poplar Bluff, MO 63902.