CRETE, NE — The Isis Theatre in Crete has never been this empty.  The venerable movie theatre has entertained southeast Nebraskans since 1926, but has been silent since being sold to the city in 2018. Now it’s been gutted and is getting a facelift courtesy of the Blue River Arts Council.

“So we want to preserve both the history of the building and keep in relevant, keep it an icon for another 100 years," Arts Council President Shay Smith said.

A lofty goal seems fitting for a building built for ‘talkies’, before any movies with sound had actually been made.

“If you look at the design, the curve of the ceiling, the bones of the walls - all of that was done to enhance and amplify the sound quality in here,” Smith said.

Arts Council President Shay Smith says that’s where the historical value lies with the nearly century-old building. That’s why the Arts Council is pursuing an unplanned second phase of renovations. 

“We decided we couldn’t just piecemeal a new light fixture or a couple ceiling tiles without altering the acoustics of the building or wrecking the historical tradition,” Smith said.

Phase one is all paid for. It involves redoing the lobby, concessions and bathrooms. The Arts Council is looking for $300,000 for phase two, which includes changes to the auditorium, ceiling, seating and a new marquee.

Executive Committee member Lacey Franzen says the community has supported the efforts with volunteer work days.

“And it was really cool," Franzen said. "The community support was awesome.”

The plans for the theatre reboot will allow for more than just movies.

“Have people present, groups perform, art shows, all those things that we can really do in this awesome space,” Franzen said.

The Arts council thinks bringing entertainment back to downtown will boost area businesses.

“It brings people to the community, it keeps people in the community, it allows our downtown businesses to be visited by folks that are coming in,” Smith said.

Smith says construction could start in the next six weeks and the theatre could reopen in the winter or spring.