The marquee above the Minor Theater lit up on Oct 19. | Photo by Seth Finnegan

Minor Theater is back after closure scare

GoFundMe saves The Minor Theater thanks to community support.
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GoFundMe saves The Minor Theater thanks to community support.

The Minor Theater has reopened to the public after closing at the start of the COVID-19 outbreaks eight months ago.

Reopening was never a certainty for Josh Neff, building owner and co-owner of The Minor.

“I was trying to have an optimistic outlook and thinking this is something we can handle. We’re gonna get through it and it’ll take a few weeks then we’ll be back to some sort of new norm or a norm, but that was not the case,” Neff said. “We were nursing the business along by paying the minimal amount of bills and rent that we could and just kinda running out of money.”

Coming into late July and early August, the likelihood of reopening was slim. But, on Sept. 28, the theater opened a GoFundMe page in hopes they would earn enough money to reopen.

“It was either that or fold the business, that’s where we were at,” Neff said. “We didn’t want to ask for anything for free. That’s why we did the incentive program and gave them the discounted theater rentals in exchange for the donations.”

Currently the GoFundMe has raised $32,805, well over their $20,000 goal, with 364 donors. This outpouring of support from the community came as a surprise to Neff.

“I didn’t think it would be so generous and so fast,” Neff said. “I did expect that the community would have a heartfelt response to our donation request but I didn’t realize that it would come so fast and exceed our expectations like it did.”

Travis Bille, a community member and donor to the Minor, expressed the significance and importance of keeping the Minor operating.

“It’s a staple of the community,” Bille said. “I love this place.”

Before they could open up, they had to make some health and safety changes first to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

“I put a two stage HEPA air filtration system in and it runs 24 hours a day,” Neff said. “We did a 60 percent seating capacity reduction, we implemented some COVID software that allows people to pick the actual seat they want to sit in, and you can buy it online and it automatically gets rid of the seats next to you on both sides. We did a bunch of enhanced cleaning safety protocols, obviously masks are being worn at all times.”

On Oct. 9, the Minor Theater reopened its doors to the public for weekend showings with the new safety protocol in place.

“We followed all the health and safety measures that the county guidelines put out and then we sorta went above and beyond and did everything else we could think of to do,” Neff said.

Fans of the theater, like Christy Mast, were thankful that the theater was able to bounce back and begin showing again.

“It was nice to just get back in with the community and be at the movies again,” Mast said.

Neff is extremely thankful and overjoyed by the community’s effort to save his business. He recalls the day the Minor reopened with glee.

“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the day that we opened,” Neff said. “Just to have the theater experience, have those doors open, have the marquee lit up, and have the popcorn machine running. It was glorious, everything you had hoped for.”

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