BRITTANI PFAU & DILLON SANDIFER
The stage has collapsed. The once intricate art deco designs on the walls have faded into the backgound. The last remnants of the balcony are found huddled in the corner in the form of rusted, tattered red movie seats.
Its presence will grip you. The thought of looking inside the once striking theater will intrigue you. But once you get in, “Can you get out?” is the question.
This is the theme for the Crim thaterror, a theater-inspired fright house fundraiser in downtown Kilgore.
“We didn’t want it (the theme) to be the same as other haunted houses with all the blood and gore. That’s what people are used to and it gets boring,” said Clara Chaffin, Main Street manager. “We wanted to keep with the theater and the Crim history. We wanted to relate it to the film aspect so that’s why there will be a video intro when you first come in.”
The theater, closed for more than five decades has seen its fair share of neglect and ruin. The dilapidated Crim is now seeking revenge on the public for their disregard. This once grand, majestic theater is seeking the avenge the wrongs committed against it.
“The theater itself is upset. It hasn’t been taken care of and it’s mad at the general public. As people walk into the theater, they’re sucked in; they can’t get out,” Chaffin said. “The theater wants to force them to fix it and it will keep people inside. It’ll suck in the next person and the next person and the next person. So the Crim will actually swallow you up. That was actually the city manager’s idea. He got the idea from the movie “Poltergeist.”
The Crim Theaterror will host its grand opening from 7 p.m. to midnight, Friday, Oct. 12. It is set to be open every Friday and Saturday night until Oct. 26. It will also be open from 7 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Wednesday the week of Oct. 29, with an extra event added from 4 to 6 p.m. on Halloween that will be geared more toward younger children.
“It will be a less scary place for them (children). Parents will be required to go with their children through the theater. We’ll more than likely have the house lights on. We want to make it easier for them.”
Admission will be $10 per person, excluding the children’s event which is by donation only.
The Main Street committee plans to use some of the theater’s decaying features to add to the fright- house effect, to make the theater feel as if it’s actually alive.
“The decaying part of the theater is dangerous so it will be more of a visual element. We want to keep the public far away so it doesn’t hurt them,” Chaffin said. “We’re going to use lights flashing and different effects to make it seem like the floor is moving while you’re walking. It’s going to feel like the theater is breathing.”
The main goal of the “Theaterror” is to raise money to hire an architect for much-needed renovations to the building.
“I would be really thrilled if we could raise between $50,000 and $65,000,” Chaffin said. “We want to eventually renovate it all the way so that people can use it once again. We want to raise enough money to keep up with the minor repairs and then cover the cost of hiring an architect.”
Plans to build a new and grander Crim theater located at 112 S. Kilgore St., downtown Kilgore, were announced in 1937, with actual construction beginning in the fall of 1938. The grand opening was held on Wednesday, June 21,1939.
The 6,000-square-foot theater had a seating capacity of slightly less than 1,000 and was designed with the art deco style of the era. Revolutionized “push-back” seats were put in place. The theater ultimately cost approximately $150,000 to complete.
It was unequaled in the East Texas area, with a grander and cutting-edge style scheme that could not be rivaled. Many black-tie premiere showings were held at the Crim. A world premiere with the filming of the film “Strike it Rich” was in Kilgore.
In the late 1950s television was making headway into the realm of entertainment and the theatre was eventually closed, sold and later used as a warehouse. It remained vacant until the 1960s.
“I don’t know if anybody knows the real reason it closed. It could’ve been that the television industry started to boom, but I can’t say for sure,” Chaffin said. “The Crim Theatre has been used for storage since it received a new roof several years ago. The theater has not had an event since the day it closed in the late 1950s.”
In 1987, the Main Street Project Resource Team visited Kilgore and suggested renovation plans for the theatre because of its prominence in the downtown area and how it represented the history of the city.
About this time, the Crim was sold at a public auction for non-payment of taxes, and the city of Kilgore obtained the deed.
“People in town have tried before to fix up the theater, but you need a large group of people behind you to do that,” Chaffin said. “We hope that the fright house will bring more attention than anything we’ve tried before.”
Volunteers for the fright house are still needed and are urged to contact Chaffin at 903-988-4117, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by signing up online at www.theaterror.com.
The deadline for volunteers is Oct. 10. Training will be from 6 to 8 p.m on Oct. 10.