COOS BAY — She has movie theater operation in her blood, along with a healthy dose of good business sense. That combination of skill sets, and a historic theater in need of guidance, is what brought Kara Long to Coos Bay.
The Egyptian Theatre Preservation Association decided in April to make Long their first full-time paid employee. The 44-year-old Ohio native officially assumed the role of executive director after Memorial Day weekend, and is now busy preparing for a “film” cutting ceremony to celebrate the Egyptian Theatre’s Grand Reopening on June 20.
“I’m just thrilled to be here in Coos Bay,” she said recently, as she overlooked some last-minute projects through the projection room windows. “I mean it is beautiful, and we are really excited about the opening.”
Since closing its doors to the public, due to structural concerns, in March of 2011, the historic theater’s board has been stabilizing more than just the bricks and mortar. They have also been working hard on the foundation of a new business model.
Greg Rueger, president of the ETPA, says the board realized there was a need to have an experienced hand to focus solely on running the theater.
“We utilized the League of Historic American Theatres, on their website, to be able to go to their members and see if anyone was interested,” he recalled. “And we got some fairly good resumes from that.”
From those resumes the board whittled it down and came up with Long, who had been operating the historic Strand Theatre in Delaware, Ohio, since 2002.
Rueger says Long brings not only a lot of experience, from her years at the Strand, but also a knowledge of the numbers associated with running a business. After working as an usher and projectionist as a teen, Long spent some time in banking and real estate before returning to her theater roots.
Asked why she decided to leave her home state for a rebuilding effort out west, Long says location helped but passion ruled the decision.
“I just saw the passion this community has for this theater,” she said. “It’s by the ocean. You know, if this was in the middle of Oklahoma I might not be here right now. But, just the passion of this community and the fact that they needed a theater. And my theater was safe, my theater has a business operating plan that anybody can pick up and run with, and this one didn’t. I thought, let’s give it a shot.”
The city of Coos Bay still owns the building, but the day-to-day operation now falls to Long, with oversight from a 12-member ETPA board.
Both Long and Rueger say the goal is to become self-sustaining and, someday, take the last of the ownership burden from the city. It starts with booking events that fill the seats.
“Program it correctly and they will come,” Long says.
The possibilities with this theater, she adds, are endless.
“Here we can be as creative as we want to,” Long said. “So, from pajama parties and beach parties with ‘Jaws’ and treasure hunts with the kids, (to) beer and movie nights, we can do it all here.”
They will mix in live music events as well, including a Teen Idol return to the stage and organ concerts on their one-of-a-kind Mighty Wurlitzer.
But, to do it all, Rueger says, they still need community help.
“We’re still going to be very volunteer-oriented,” he added.
So, on Tuesday night, June 17, Long will host a volunteer orientation from 7-8 p.m. at the theater.
They need volunteers for the projection booth, sound and lights, ushers and greeters, concessions and box office. They will be training some to make really great popcorn, as well. A treat, with a secret recipe, that Long was known for in Ohio.
“This community has supported this theater through before it was closed, (and) during its closure, so now it’s our turn as a theater to go to the community to say ‘what can we do for you?’ It’s unlimited the things we can do for this community.
“I just can’t wait to serve you guys popcorn.”