Businesses “elated” over theater reopening

Downtown Camas’ Liberty Theatre to showcase documentaries, independent films & more

The sights and sounds of the cinema are “coming soon” to downtown Camas.

After nearly 18 months in the dark, Fourth Avenue’s Liberty Theatre is preparing to light up once again under new ownership, to the delight of shop owners up and down the city’s core.

Buck Heidrick_of the VBJBetween now and the theater’s mid-March open date, crews we will be cleaning, fixing and updating the vintage theater. The Liberty’s new tenants said they plan on showing “top-notch films from Hollywood,” as well as documentaries and independent films, once it opens.

The new tenants, operating as Rootstock Capital Management LLC, said they want to keep the price of admission economical; you’ll be able to see a film at the Liberty for $3.50.

Rand Thornsley, the Liberty’s new managing director, said opening the historic theater’s doors again will make downtown Camas a destination for the entire community and surrounding area.

It seems the rest of the city couldn’t agree more.

“The whole downtown area is very excited because we’ve been fighting the tides for a while,” said Karen Hall, co-owner of the Camas Hotel and Downtown Camas Association board member. “Local businesses have told me it [the theater closing] hurt their business by 30 percent. So I think the Liberty reopening will be a definite asset for the entire community. And our guests are always looking for fun things to do.”

Hall said the reopening of the Liberty is another step in the right direction for downtown Camas. She said the community is seeing some real positive momentum right now.

Buck Heidrick_of the VBJ“We are a very determined little town,” Hall said. “In spite of the economy we push hard and we have a sweet little downtown that people like.  We believe downtown Camas has what it needs to continue to grow. This is a good start for this year.”

Hall said the Downtown Camas Association will be working closely with the Liberty Theatre to see that it gets off to a successful start. On a similar wavelength, Thornsley said the theater will operate with community involvement in mind.

“We intend to be very involved in the Camas and Washougal communities,” Thornsley said.

It’s not just traditional retailers praising the reopening of the Liberty. Paul Cheek, owner of Rushing Water Yoga on nearby Northeast Birch Street, said more foot traffic around the theater means more people will find out about his business.

“I’ve been down here [downtown Camas] since 2003 and I was here when the theater was open,” Cheek explained. “People park right in front of my place and look up and see there’s a yoga studio. As soon as they do that I’m a winner whether they sign up for class or not,”

Buck Heidrick_of the VBJCheek said he believes the theater will be a huge success because of the decision by its new tenants to show movies with “film festival” flair.

“I like that the format of this theater is different than the last one,” Cheek said. “They’re going to bring in some foreign films, documentaries and things like that. So to me it just sounds great. This is definitely something that’s not only good for downtown, but good for all of Camas.”

According to a statement from Rootstock, the Liberty’s programming will be “repertory” style, with different movies and different times and more turn over. On most weeks, film buffs will get a choice of at least two movies and sometimes more. The Liberty will also be showing films off of the national break, meaning that new films will show up at the Liberty three-to-seven weeks after they are released across the country. This way, the theater won’t have to run the same film for several weeks on end to satisfy studio requirements.

While there’s no guarantee that all of the films showing at the Liberty will be box office hits, it’s a pretty safe bet that the theater holds the excitement and the blessing of East Clark County.

Lights, camera, benefit!

The Downtown Camas Association, with the Liberty Theatre and other local corporate sponsors, has announced a music benefit concert to support Camas Public Schools music programs and the Downtown Camas Association itself. The event is scheduled coincide with the grand opening of the Liberty Theatre, Saturday, March 19, 2011.

In addition, an open house and preview is tentatively planned for downtown Camas’ First Friday on March 4th, if the theater’s renovations and upgrade work schedule remain on track.