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Two approach town council with theater hopes


Last updated 3/29/2023 at 10:32am

The bunker-like outside of the theater area at Coulee Dam's "Community Building," which has attracted some interest in renovating the space into a usable media hub. - Scott Hunter photo

Two men have come home and now have hopes and dreams for the closed theater in Coulee Dam.

Benji Dupris and James Pakootas addressed the town council last week, hoping to get a blessing to explore their dreams about how to revive the town's closed theater and make it into a space for more than just feature films and popcorn.

They've both been forging careers in the media world and working with youth, Dupris said. "So, when we saw the theater shut down, we made some inquiries."

Dupris graduated from Lake Roosevelt in 1992, Pakootas in 2001.

"The whole time I grew up, it was like, how do I get out of here?" Pakootas said, but now "I want to come back. I've been out there; I've done all that. I want to come home and say, you can do it from here."

Between the two of them, they've gathered experience and connections in music, theater, film, dance, and more.

Pakootas revved up LR's student body a few years ago in a rap show designed to send a message.

Dupris hinted at, but didn't yet want to name, possible funding for work that would let them "activate that space."

"The idea, I think, would be to kind of recenter that space into not just a place that would have first-run films that you can see out of town on the weekends ... but possibly have ... some other smaller films ... more specific to ... things that are interesting to us, like fishing or hunting, or project films that will get people to talk a little bit more in communities."

Live shows could be staged again, too. "There's people around here who are trying to develop their shows," Dupris said.

The two envision a kind of "media centric hub that would possibly have classes to teach kids how to use their cameras, or workshops. So, it's just really activating that that space that we have such a good memory of growing up."

The two toured the closed theater with city worker Brian Warneke, and found it "in pretty good shape," Dupris said.

The two found a willing council listening. The theater, housed inside Coulee Dam's "Community Building," has been closed for years, leaving the community without a movie house or a good performance space.

The building also holds the Rio Grande Restaurant and the Riverside Lanes bowling alley.

Mayor Pro Tempore Keith St. Jeor asked the two to come back with a more fleshed out proposal, but assured them the town is interested in making something work.


Reader Comments(1)

Carol Schoning writes:

These guys have some great ideas and a space that isn't really used could expand the theater to accommodate a couple more ideas, but for sure it would be nice to have the theater back.


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