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Wendy Reuer, Published July 11 2013

Valley City group hopes to entice movie theater investors

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – A city development group here is hoping $50,000 will entice entrepreneurs to open a move theater.

“It’s one of those core businesses that you really do need to have, especially in a community of our size,” said Jennifer Feist, director of the Valley Development Group, which serves both the city and Barnes County, N.D.

The home of Valley City State University with a population of about 6,500 had a two-screen theater until the owner retired about a year ago. The theater was also facing an expensive conversion to digital movies. The conversion from 35 mm film to digital – which can run upward of $60,000 – has forced smaller theaters to close across the country. Hollywood studios have mandated the digital format by promising to produce only digital movies starting in 2014.

“(Movie theaters) are one of those anchors in a community,” Feist said. “It’s an amenity that is really important to the quality of life we have here.”

‘Call to action’

In Lisbon, N.D., community members raised more than $123,000 to save its 1911-built theater by converting it from film to digital format.

Feist said her organization hoped the grant money would encourage someone to step forward and propose a plan to open a new theater or reopen the existing building that is now owned by Jamestown, N.D., businessman Casey Stoudt.

“(Stoudt) has been very forthright and very willing to work with us as well as anyone interested in the project,” Feist said.

Stoudt could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

“It can be at the existing location or a new building,” Feist said. “We just would like a solid plan in place.”

Feist said local investors have expressed interest in the project and some have extended offers of silent partnership.

“This is a call to action for the community: Any serious party who is very interested in this should contact us,” Feist said.

Those interested in the project can contact the Valley Development Group at (701) 845-1891 or at www.valleycitynd.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530