A Grand Plan

Built in 1904, the Indian Head Grand Theatre operated first as an opera house and venue for formal balls, then entered the age of silent movies and talkies, and then operated as a contemporary movie venue. The Theatre served the community regularly until the digital transition simply made it prohibitively expensive for the local owner-operators to continue.

In 2014, with the building close to closure, a group of local residents came up with a novel idea. If the overarching feeling in town was that the Theatre was part of the social fabric of Indian Head, that it was a key fixture on the main street, and that as the only cultural facility in town, was vital to the community – in short, that it belonged to the community – then wasn’t it up to the community to operate it?

With that idea in mind, a committed group of volunteers formed a non-profit association, picked up a phonebook, and literally called everyone in town. By the end of that first evening of phone calls they had $50,000, and Indian Head had the Grand Theatre as a community owned and operated venue.

After significant structural and digital equipment upgrades, the venue now hosts at least one major live performance per month, also offering regular movie screenings, high school drama club performances, a venue for local musicians and theatre groups, and a growing program of artist residencies. Arts camps for kids and workshops for adults keep the venue in fairly constant use. Often the Theatre allows students to use the facility in exchange for volunteer hours at the concession, therefore it also provides early job skills opportunities.

With about 65% of attendees for live performances coming from out of town, the Theatre is a significant local economic driver, and is working hard with local businesses in order to develop full tourist packages, including meals and other local attractions. Run by a completely volunteer board, the Grand’s programming and operations reflect the feeling of ownership and commitment shared by the whole community – ensuring many more years as a local landmark.