Stanley Theater/Stanley, WI

The Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisconsin)

July 19, 2010 Monday

Revamped Stanley theater maintains its style

By Chris Vetter, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

July 19–STANLEY — Daniel Eslinger’s goal is to make the Stanley Theater look like it did when it opened in 1936.

The movie theater’s plush red curtains are still in place. So are the original light fixtures and 400 seats. Now, the exterior of the downtown theater at 131 N. Broadway St. has been restored to its original look.

Vitrolite, a black-colored glass, has been installed on the walls. It once was a common material for building exteriors, but it hasn’t been manufactured in the United States in years, Eslinger said.

"It’s At Dco," he said. "And we haven’t changed anything."

A St. Louis company was hired to install the special glass.

"They gather it, they warehouse it," he said. "If anyone wants the Vitrolite, they put it on. Now, it’s the same face and type as when the theater was built."

The theater is now owned by Eslinger’s children, although Daniel still manages it.

"My wife bought it in 1968," Daniel Eslinger said. "The place was built in 1936. It replaced the Star Theater, which sat in the same location. They advertised the theater at the time as the fanciest theater between Milwaukee and Minneapolis."

The family decided to invest about $20,000 into restoring the front of the building, he said.

The throwback look of the theater makes the Stanley cinema a unique place to watch a movie, he said.

"A lot of small theaters are falling by the wayside," he said. "We just try to keep it looking as sharp as possible."

A movie typically has a five-day run in Stanley. Movies are shown once daily, at 7:30 p.m. The theater is open Fridays through Tuesdays and is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Eslinger said he tries to bring in family-friendly films. Currently showing is "Toy Story 3." Upcoming movies include "Eclipse," "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" and "Ramona and Beezus."

"We do our own booking," Eslinger said. "We will not play an ‘R’ (rated movie) unless it’s a darn good show."

About the only change to the theater from its original look was adding a small concession area, he said.

"We try to keep our prices just a hair under everyone else," Eslinger said.

There are only two movie theaters in operation in Chippewa County, with the other in Chippewa Falls. So, the Stanley Theater draws customers from Cadott and from cities north and east of Stanley.

"We do well," he said. "We have enough people; it is worth the effort."

Vetter can be reached at 715-723-0303 or chris.vetter

- To find out more about the history of the Stanley Theater or for movie showtimes, visit www.thestanleytheater.com

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