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‘Capitol’ investment? RISE Erwin considering renovating closed theater

RISE Erwin is asking the public to respond to a survey that is seeking their thoughts on the future of the Capitol Theater in downtown Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Richard Rourk

A local organization of young professionals is looking for the public’s help regarding one of Erwin’s most recognizable landmarks.

RISE Erwin posted a survey on July 9 to get feedback from the public to see if the group should take on Capitol Cinema I & II as a renovation project.

“We have been in discussions for about a year with Jan Bradley (Capitol Cinema I & II owner) about what can be done with the building,” RISE Erwin President Tyler Engle said. “Jamie Rice (former RISE Erwin president) and I began to meet more and more with Jan over the last six or seven months and had many discussions of what the theater could become and those conversations morphed into a conversation of how RISE could continue its mission.”

The survey, which is still available on RISE Erwin’s Facebook page, is brief to fill out and includes the following questions:

• Is the Capitol Theater an asset to our Main Street?

• How many times per year did you visit the Capitol Theater when it was operating?

• If you didn’t visit the theater, what was your primary reason?

• Which programming options would you be interested in seeing?

• In order to raise the capital necessary for fixed expenses (utilities, insurance, etc.), would you be willing to become a “friend of the theatre” in exchange for special advance ticket sales, discounts on events, and/or other perks?

The survey also features a spot where citizens can share feedback.

Prior to its closing, Capitol Cinema I and II had been a mainstay in Downtown Erwin for 80 years.

“The Capitol Theatre opened its doors in September 1940, contrary to some reports that it opened in 1935,” Bradley said during an August 2019 interview with The Erwin Record. “It was one of several theaters owned by our late grandfather, Earle Hendren.”

Bradley acknowledged that the theater has always been a family-owned business.

“After (Earle’s) passing in 1962, daddy took it over and remained owner until his untimely death in 2005,” Bradley said during an August 2019 interview with The Erwin Record. “It was a single-screen movie house until daddy renovated it in the 1980s and enclosed the balcony to make it a twin-screen theatre, renaming it ‘Capitol Cinema I & II’.”

According to Engle, the response to the surveys has been overwhelming.

“We’ve had well over 15,000 views and 800 responses within the first two days of putting the survey up,” Engle said. “Working with Jan (Bradley) has been wonderful. She is such a smart and focused businesswoman. Erwin should hold a parade for Jan Bradley because she has poured her soul into creating happy memories for the citizens of Erwin.”

Although the response has been swift, any future project could take some time.

“We want to understand where the Capitol is and where it can go. We want everyone to know that whichever way we move forward, it’s going to be a project that will cost in the millions, so we are taking this slow and we are not asking the city or county for money,” Engle said. “That is why RISE, a non-profit organization, is seeing what can be done. We do not want to make any promises that we cannot deliver.”

The survey is available on RISE Erwin’s Facebook page and will be available for a few more days.

“We will have the survey up until Friday, July 17, then we will have one of our members run a deep analysis on the feedback,” Engle said.