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FLASHBACK: The Ector is back in the movie business - Odessa American: Opinions

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FLASHBACK: The Ector is back in the movie business

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Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2014 7:00 am

The smell of popcorn wafting from the lobby, with a bit of a sweet smell coming from the soda fountain will not be a distant memory anymore when the Ector Theatre begins showing the classic movies at the classic theater Sept. 28.

After a long wait films via a digital projector will be shown at the majestic classic theater.

And, the keeper of the keys, the switches and the popcorn Don Stice, is giving a great big thanks to the benefactor for this, Donald Wood.

Stice has been lobbying for the new video machine for more than a decade, having held several fund raisers over the years to get the machine in place. But after all those efforts, they just could not raise the funds to buy the video equipment.

Finally, one day a few months back, Stice took a chance and walked in to Wood’s office and asked him to help.

“He personally gave us a check for $15,000,” Stice said. “My hat’s off to him, we are so grateful.”

That $15,000 allowed the theater to purchase a Christie digital projector, which Stice says not only brings the Ector back to its original purpose, but makes the theater a venue where meetings and presentations can be made.

This puts the theater back to doing the business that it was built for back in 1951

And soon, you will see classic movie titles from every decade listed on that marquee.

“The Ector Theatre is one of the few movie palaces left in this part of the country,” Stice said. “And most of the 30,000 new residents in West Texas don’t even know it exists.”

The Ector Theatre opened Aug. 1, 1951 at its location on 500 N. Texas Ave. in Odessa. The first movie ever shown there was “Half Angel,” starring Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten.

Stice told me he fell in love with the theater more than 55 years ago, when he moved to Odessa. The first movie he ever saw there was “The Alamo” with John Wayne. I remember seeing “Summer of ‘42” at the Ector with all my friends – and if memory serves, we may have watched the Elvis documentary there, too.

The historic theater, complete with art deco style interior, was a popular movie spot for years in downtown Odessa, along with the Scott Theater and the Rio Theater. Actually the Ector was the longest hold out in all of the theaters but it closed Aug. 22, 1985 after a final showing of the James Bond thriller “A View To A Kill.”

Rather than let the building crumble in to a state of disrepair, back in 1998 the Ector Theatre Task Force was appointed by the City Council and as a proclamation says “a committee of whole-hearted citizens worked diligently to restore this historical building…”

Main Street Odessa, helped with the renovation back then, refurbishing the seats, the wall art, the lights and the marquee. The marquee wraps around from the side to the front of the building. The vertical sign is still in use and is located on the corner of the building starting just above the marquee. Each geometric block along the side and the front has the pattern lined with neon.

All worked hard to renovate the interior and exterior of the building and thanks to their TLC, the theater reopened in Aug. of 2001, presenting the classic James Dean film “Rebel Without a Cause.”

Since that time, with the old projector broke, speakers were bad so in recent years, the bread and butter of the Ector has been live performances, like performances by Vince King the Elvis impersonator and of other tribute acts.

Stice said he plans to show movies from every era and of all genres like westerns, family, comedies, mysteries and musicals on the large screen, which is 20 feet tall and 40 feet wide. The bottom floor of the theater seats 500 comfortably. For now, the balcony is closed.

The first movie that will be shown this time around, will be “God’s Not Dead,” at 3 p.m. Sept. 28. The movie is free and open to the public and sponsored by Asbury United Methodist Church.

Ticket prices for upcoming movies are affordable at $5 for adults and $3 for kids., And, Stice said he’s only going to charge $2 for popcorn and sodas – so you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a little entertainment.

Stice believes the Ector could be an anchor for downtown revitalization and so the theater has been chosen by the City of Odessa as the location for a meeting on that very topic on Oct. 16.

The old palatial theaters are our history and many communities across the state, who value their downtowns and their history, have taken on projects to refurbish the old theaters — the places where our ancestors filled the seats and watched the classics.

So the Ector Theatre is back in the movie business…it’s been too long.

Odessa, TX

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