News Column

Hiawatha theater could reopen soon

August 28, 2014

By Clinton Thomas, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

Aug. 28--The screens went dark at Hiawatha's Arrow Twin Theatre a little more than a week ago.

If a new plan comes to fruition, projectors could light up the screens once again in time for the holidays.

The nonprofit group Hiawatha ACES has begun a fundraising drive that would pay for the purchase and renovation of the 40-year-old theater.

A ballot initiative failed in April that would have constructed a new city-owned and operated triplex theater to replace the Arrow Twin, which was slated to close. Ian Schuetz, president of Hiawatha ACES, said that even though the group was split on whether it favored the municipal theater plan, its failure awakened them to reality.

"We felt that while it was fine to criticize that plan, the problem remained and there would be no theater in Hiawatha," Mr. Schuetz said.

After an audit of the Arrow Twin's equipment, the group determined it would cost about $200,000 to update the theater with digital projectors, 3-D capability, new seats and ADA compliance, among other renovations.

The group came to an agreement with Clint Holthaus, who currently owns and formerly operated the Arrow Twin, to purchase the building and have him manage it until he decides to retire.

Small improvement projects and maintenance will begin quickly, with a goal of reopening the theater in time for the holidays. Mr. Schuetz said it was hard to project a timeline for the entire five-phase project due to fundraising.

"Because we are such a small community, all of the charitable organizations tend to dip in the same pot," Mr. Schuetz said.

Even so, fundraising undertakings of this scale are not without precedent in the northeast Kansas community. A new concession stand and bathroom facility near the high school football field was recently constructed entirely from donations at a cost of roughly $200,000.

Aside from fundraising, one of the project's biggest remaining hurdles could come at the ballot box. A second proposal to fund a city-owned movie theater with a tax will be on the ballot in November. Mr. Schuetz said if the measure passes, the plans to renovate the Arrow Twin will come to a halt.

"The town just isn't big enough to support two theaters," Mr. Schuetz said. For more information on the theater project, visit

Clinton Thomas can be reached at Follow him on Twitter:



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Source: St. Joseph News-Press (MO)

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