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Thu, Aug. 22

Elks' future is in live shows

PRESCOTT – State historian Marshall Trimble asked the audience at his performance on Monday night if they were ready for the next 100 years of entertainment at the Elks Opera House.

"If you are, I promise to come back then," said Trimble, who attended movies at the theater as a kid – all the way from Ash Fork.

"We thought Pres-cott was a really big city," he said. "Going to Prescott was like going to New York City."

Women such as Ida Born and Joan Vallely who grew up in the 1940s said the Elks had the best movies.

The city tried to re-capture some of that old movie magic this past week by including classic, popular, silent and Prescott-related movies from different time periods of the past century.

Tom Slaback, a volunteer with the Elks Opera House Foundation, obtained clearance from Columbia Motion Pictures to show its 1971 film "Bless the Beasts & Children" at the Elks.

"They own the copyright and they have to approve it," said Slaback, an avid movie collector who donated some of the movies that aired last week and gave an introductory talk about the history behind them.

Slaback said that more than 250 movies have been made in the area since 1912, including "Bless the Beasts & Children."

When Columbia pulled its records on the Elks, it showed the theater was no longer being used for movies.

But since the Elks got Columbia's approval to show the movie, its records now indicate that the Elks is an active movie theater once again.

The city has no plans to use it for movies in the future, however.

"The equipment is held together by a wing and a prayer and it would take a lot of work to start showing movies on a regular basis again," Reiman said.

In a letter from the United Arab Emirates, former Elks Opera House artistic director Gail Mangham said, "Old theaters are difficult taskmistresses. They demand a lot, a pedicure here, a manicure there, a nip and tuck."

Those demands may preclude showing many movies in the future.

"It would be difficult to do," said the Elks' manager, Libby Reiman of the City of Prescott.

"Someone could rent it out for that purpose but it may not be adequate for showing movies anymore."

During Centennial Week, the city brought movies back at the price people paid for them way back when.

Currently, the city rents out the Elks to live acts and shows such as the David Wilcox concert on Friday night and Reiman said that live acts will continue to be the main source of entertainment at the theater in the future.

Popular American spiritual singer Francois Clemmons will be performing there at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 6.

The city wraps up its Centennial week of events with a free 100th anniversary birthday party from 1 to 3 p.m. today before the Blue Rose Theater's production of "Marta of the Lowlands," (at 8 p.m.), which was the Elks inaugural show on Feb. 20, 1905.

Free tours of the partially restored theater will be available to enable the public to see it before the next century of entertainment begins.

Contact the reporter at tetshman@prescottaz.com

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