As I've traveled the country, I've visited a lot of small towns. Some are thriving, some are faltering, and some are just plain crumbling. When the Plaza Theater sat empty for almost 15 years in downtown Miamisburg, Ohio, it was symbolic of the latter two. When it opened in 1919, the 700 seat Plaza was the heart of a thriving downtown. People came from miles around to do their shopping, catch up on the gossip and see a show. The theater closed its doors in 1968, but the building lived on as the new home of Sor-rel's Western Wear, a successful apparel and equipment store. After a solid 26 year run where the business thrived, the Sorrel family sold their business in 1994. Eight years later, it was closed and the theater-turned-western-store would begin its long run as an empty shell right in the middle of a struggling Main Street. Downtown Miamisburg, like so many small towns, had ceded its business to strip malls and chain stores outside the city limits.
It sat there, that is, until a group of Miamisburg citizens decided they wanted to take back downtown and reopen the Plaza Theater. They enlisted the help of Doug Sorrel, a lifelong Miamisburg resident and part of the family who once ran Sor-rel's Western Wear. He loved the idea of reopening the Plaza, but that was going to cost and that kind of money wasn't just laying around. He began a fundraising campaign in 2014.
That year, the Plaza Theater Association raised $600, enough to buy a few seats maybe. But it lit a fire in Doug because it showed him that people really wanted this project to succeed. His team doubled their fundraising efforts and told donors that if they hadn't started construction by the end of 2015, they wouldn't be held to their pledges. By the end of 2015, not only had they started construction, but they had raised over $483,000 and the Plaza was open for business. Their success was rooted in a lot of hard work and a refusal to take "no" for an answer.
On Christmas Day, 2015, the Plaza Theater had its grand re-opening, and the committee decided to show the film Field of Dreams. Their idea of showing old, well loved films on the big screen might work, but then again it might not. Field of Dreams seemed like the perfect film - they had built it, now would the people come? They did, and they continue to come today.
The Plaza shows several well-loved films every week, and also hosts theater performances, concerts and special events. It is available for private parties and has even hosted a wedding. The project wasn't a restoration, but rather a rebirth. Old elements were combined with new ones and the result is amazing. The concession stand sells popcorn, candy, beer and wine and the best part is that tickets are just five dollars. The theater has helped downtown Miamisburg thrive again as people are visiting the local bars and restaurants on their way to or from a show. The old heart of downtown is beating again.
For more information and showtimes, visit the Plaza Theater website HERE.