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Oelwein’s Grand Theatre received a much needed financial boost from the City Council during Monday night’s council proceedings. The local movie house had planned a seating renovation project more than a year ago, but those plans were halted by the pandemic.

The Grand Theatre of Oelwein, Inc. President Matt Vogel submitted a grant application for funding from the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax and Tourism budget for $10,000 toward the $115,000 project. The Council responded to the request by doubling the grant award to $20,000, noting that the local theater is a major attraction for Oelwein and has been a great amenity.

In identifying the project, Vogel wrote The Grand has two theaters, one with 300 seats and the other with 200 seats. The seats were installed after a major fire in 1975 and are still in use today. After 46 years of use, the fabric on many seats is too worn for the cleaning company to clean them. Other seats have broken parts and squeak, with no way to fix them.

Vogel noted that before the pandemic, the theater had approximately 27,000 movie goers in a year. Last year the theater was at about 30 percent of pre-pandemic attendance. However, the good news is that theater income has exceeded expenses for the past three months, and Vogel is confident things are getting better. He added that major movie houses are releasing new movies and people are starting to come back.

“We also believe that people will be excited to see an updated theatre,” he wrote, using the British spelling.

The project includes the purchase of new seats, removing the old and installation of the new ones, update floor coverings and update the sound system to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

The theater has secured a grant from NE Iowa Charitable Foundation for $35,000 and $9,500 from the Fayette County Community Foundation. The theater has pledged $25,000 of its future earnings toward the project and there are additional sources of funding for $20,500. The $20,000 grant award from the city will put the theater well within reach of its project goal.

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