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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2005

Wauseon welcomes 6-screen cinema

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Entertainment-seeking patrons enter Skye Cinema in Wauseon at its opening last night.
Entertainment-seeking patrons enter Skye Cinema in Wauseon at its opening last night.
RUGGIERO Enlarge

WAUSEON - On Skye Cinema's opening night in Fulton County, which has not had an indoor movie theater in 33 years, teenagers were dropped off by parents who had never gone out to see a movie without driving at least a half-hour each way.

The last indoor theater in Fulton County was the Scott Theatre in Archbold, which burned in 1972. Wauseon had a drive-in, Star Auto Theatre, which operated seasonally until 1999.

But since then, when Fulton County's 42,000 residents have wanted to see a movie, they've driven to Maumee, Defiance, Bryan, Toledo, or a tiny theater in Morenci, Mich., which has limited hours.

To suddenly have a choice of six shows, on Airport Highway in Wauseon within 10 minutes of home, seemed almost overwhelming to the six junior high boys whom Sam Schmitz dropped off last night.

Would it be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or XXX:State of the Union? The Amityville Horror or Kung Fu Hustle? Robots or Sahara?

"We don't even know," said Dylan Hawkins.

What really mattered, said his friend Brandon Fahrer, was this: "We're going with some girls."

For the first time, the six boys were to meet a group of girls at the movies. And they credited the opening of the new theater, which reduced transportation time for the mothers and fathers, for their big date.

Decades ago, if they had lived in one of Fulton County's villages they might have been able to walk to a movie.

Swanton had the La France theater on North Main Street until the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Wauseon had two theaters: the Princess, which was on South Fulton Street in what is now the Yoder Family Phamacy closed about 40 years ago, and the Chief, which was across the street and up a ways, closed a few years earlier.

Delta had The Lyric until the late 1950s on Main Street where Dee's Art & Angles is now, and Fayette once had a theater on Main Street.

Even Lyons had a theater, although it appears to have been one of the first in the county to close. The Great Depression hit it hard, and it is thought to have closed in the early 1930s, never moving beyond silent films that were accompanied by a village woman on the piano, local historian Fred Tredway said.

Matt Gleckler, who quit his job as a bank assistant vice president and gathered investors and loan officers willing to put $3 million in Skye Cinema, hoped all those decades without an indoor theater will lead to pent up demand.

Last night's opening wasn't the sellout of all 800 seats that he had hoped for. But theater-goers seemed to enjoy themselves, and the lobby was filled with flowers, which was success in itself.

Mr. Gleckler has overseen construction himself since firing his general contractor.

Simply completing the theater, which originally was scheduled to open Jan. 31, has been his biggest challenge, he said early this week while carpeting was being laid in the lobby.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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