The Historic Temple Theatre in Viroqua will launch its 17th season of shows Saturday and have something that was offered when the building first opened in 1922 – movies.

The first show of the season is the Canadian group Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. The bilingual folk-fusion trio plays Irish and original creations infused with modern and world rhythms. The concert starts at 7 p.m.

The 2017-18 season is the first where the Historic Temple Theatre offered two season subscription options and 10 shows. Patrons had the option of purchasing tickets for all 10 season shows or Pick 6, where they could pick the shows they were most interested in. During previous years, there were five shows per season.

“With 10 shows not everyone can make it to all of them — even with five shows,” Jess Reed, executive director, said during an interview in the theater’s lobby. “People can pick and choose what six shows they want, all in the same seat.”

Reed said the Associates of the Restored Temple Theatre (ARTT) Board of Directors decided to expand the season from five shows to 10 for several reasons, one of which was to have the doors open more often.

“We need to use this space,” Reed said. “We are welcoming everyone and offering options for all. The building is too pretty to sit empty.”

Another way the ARTT Board is offering more entertainment is through Bridge Shows, which began in 2016.

“I was part of the board for almost four years, and we could see five shows were not enough,” Reed said. “Bridge came from the musical term and to bridge the gap between season shows and to build bridges between people.”

The first Bridge Show for 2017-18 is The Cactus Blossoms on Oct. 5 and the second is The Ridgtones on Dec. 9. Reed said Bridge Shows will be scheduled more throughout the winter. Past Bridge Shows include Cloud Cult, The Pines, PHOX, The Okee Dokee Brothers and Anda Union. According to the theater’s website, Bridge Shows will be announced as booked.

Tickets for shows are available online at historictempletheatre.com or by calling 608-606-2340 Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. People may also purchase tickets at the theater most days Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., however, they are advised to call before visiting to make sure someone is available to assist them.

“All of the tickets are available online; there’s no longer general seating,” Reed said. “People can still come to the door to get tickets before shows.”

Movies to be shown

Next month, the Temple Theatre will once again be a place where people can watch movies. “Citizen Kane” will be shown Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

“I wanted to show ‘Citizen Kane’ because it’s my favorite movie, it’s on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list and Orson Welles is from Wisconsin,” Reed said. “This was built as a movie house. We weren’t fully restored without having the capability to show movies.”

A rear projection system was installed, as was a new screen.

“The original screen had a hole and wasn’t useful as a rear projection screen,” Reed said. “We purchased a new screen; it’s not as large as the old screen. The old screen was enormous. The new screen is 20 feet wide by 15 feet high.

As soon as the projection system and screen were installed, Reed watched the original “Star Wars” movie. “I thought, ‘Now it’s a movie theater,’” he said with a smile. “Now we can offer something that’s not a stage show. The goal is to have movies in the summer as the primary thing and throughout the year.”

Before each show, the screen will be lowered and sponsors will be acknowledged and upcoming shows advertised. The new screen and projection system will also allow artists to perform in front of the screen while images are shown behind them.

Reed said the last movies to be shown in the Temple Theatre were in 1994 or 1995.

“I saw ‘Return of the Jedi’; I could show you the seat where I sat,” he said. “I think there are still a lot of people who remember (seeing movies at the Temple). What a better thing to do than to show movies of when they grew up?”

Along with “Citizen Kane,” other movies that will be shown include the silent film “Nosferatu” (1922) Oct. 31 at 10 p.m., “Elf” (2003) Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. Admission for “Citizen Kane” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is $5; admission for “Nosferatu” is $3 and “Elf” will be shown for free. Concessions will be available.

Executive director hired

Reed was hired as executive director in April. The position, which was put in the budget for 2017, was opened to board members first. Prior to the board hiring a paid executive director, volunteers worked on programming, contacted agents and did other behind-the-scenes tasks.

“It was unsustainable for us to have five shows…,” Reed said. “If we only provide five shows, we are not living up to our mission... Five shows for a long time was what we were capable of doing. We want people to see that we have taken a step forward...”

Reed said there still is a need for volunteers to serve as ushers and clean between shows.

“It’s such an amazing building not only for our community but also the area,” Reed said. “Not many (theaters) have our seating capacity. Viroqua is becoming a destination. The building (for some) makes the decision. Yes, it’s about Main Street, it’s about Viroqua and beyond; we’re about making the community better.”

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