Crystal Theatre celebrates 20 years |

Crystal Theatre celebrates 20 years

Gina Guarascio
Carbondale Correspondent
Sittin' in The Cheap Seats. Bob and Kathy Ezra, who rarely get to sit in their own theater, take a moment to relax. (Jane Bachrach photo)

Bob and Kathy Ezra did something 20 years ago that they could never do now.

“We had carpenters working for $150 a week and the electrician wired the whole building for about as much as it costs for a new switch these days,” Bob Ezra reminisced.

The Ezras took a risk in the early 1980s with their vision to reopen the Crystal Theatre in downtown Carbondale.

“The owner of the Isis in Aspen told me at the time, ‘You’ve got to be crazy, Carbondale will never support a movie theater,'” Bob said.

Indeed, it’s hard to believe now, but in the ’80s, Carbondale was in an economic slump.

“There was no work,” Bob, a carpenter, said. “The main business around here was coal mining and agriculture, and that was slowing down. People were looking for things to do.”

So, with a small group of friends the Ezras got under way and completely remodeled the space that was originally part of the Dinkel Mercantile Co. in the historic Dinkel Building on Main Street.

“We were living in a town where, if one car drove down the street at night, it was a lot,” Bob said.

“We definitely wondered why we were doing this, who’s going to come?” Kathy added.

The opening weekend back in 1985 was a sellout, and now, even though the rent is a lot higher (it was free for the first few years), the Ezras are making a living.

“We work almost every night,” Kathy said. “I take the downstairs selling concessions, and Bob works the projector upstairs.”

The work doesn’t end with rolling the credits at the end of each show. The upbeat couple stays busy researching films, booking and ordering the films, and keeping up the general appearance of the theater.

“Most of the big movie houses have a booking agent who gets the movies for them,” Bob said. “We do all that ourselves and try to get things we think our audience will like.”

The Crystal Theatre shows thought-provoking independent films, and throughout the years the couple has read the audience pretty well.

“We’ve only had three goose eggs in the last 20 years,” Bob said.

Twenty years has flown by for the Ezra family, and Kathy said she doesn’t know what will happen in the future as the face of Carbondale changes.

“Carbondale is in constant flux. Anything can happen, but we’re glad we’re here now,” Kathy said. “It’s amazing to do something you like to do; we’ll keep doing it as long as we can,” she added.

“This theater has a life of its own; we’re just trying to keep it aimed in the right direction,” Bob said. “This place has great karma ” everyone was so into it. I think it’s special because of its history.”

Good karma translates into a theater patrons’ respect.

“You’ve got to be careful what you wish for,” Bob said. “I used to think, maybe when we open this theater we’ll see a few more cars downtown. Now, I wish there’d be a few less.”

The Ezras are grateful to the community and to their staff, many of whom have been with them from the beginning.

In honor of the 20th anniversary the Crystal Theatre will show “Mad Hot Ballroom,” and from today to Tuesday, every 20th patron gets in free, and there will be $2 off all concessions for all patrons. There also will be a drawing every night for a 10-punch discount pass.

On Tuesday, the theater’s anniversary, patrons can enjoy 1985 prices, when adults paid $3.50 and kids saw a show for $2, plus free popcorn. Dinkel’s grandson Wally DeBeque and his great-granddaughter Shelly DeBeque, who works at the theater, will be on hand for the drawing. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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