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Mayville theater open with new owners, community support

David and Heather Torgerson have spent the past few months renovating the Delchar Theater in Mayville and are reopening Thursday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Heather Torgerson bags up some popcorn at the concession stand of the Delchar Theater in Mayville, ND. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

The Delchar Theater in Mayville, N.D., is reopening Thursday, thanks to a movie aficionado, a community willing to contribute and gracious former owners.

Closed since late December, the 1927-built movie theater reopens with new owners at 7:15 p.m. with the debut showing of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

The owners are David and Heather Torgeson, married 20-somethings whose day jobs are with the May-Port CG School District. David, who grew up in Mayville, said he “always had a dream” to operate a movie theater.

“It’s going to be a second job and a hobby at the same time,” he added.

His dream collided with the reality of Mayville having a population of only 1,800, meaning there is no guarantee of big profits.

“Like I’ve said before, after bad years we went out to celebrate at McDonald’s and after good years, we went to Perkins,” said Steve Larson, the former owner along with wife Laurel.

The community showed its support for the theater with $37,000 in private donations and fundraising events and a $20,000 no-interest loan from the May-Port Economic Development Corp. The loan will be paid back with 25 cents per movie ticket sold, a process that is estimated to take 10 years.

“It was humbling to see the level of support from a lot of folks in the community, especially those with kids,” said Tom Capouch, a banker who headed the fundraising committee. “People wanted something for the kids to do in town.”

But the crowning move was the $1 price tag put on the theater by the Larsons, the final touch that meant the new owners had to borrow only $8,000 for improvements such as a new screen and surround-sound speakers.

“We wanted to see the business keep going and we wanted to give them a fighting chance,” Steve Larson said. “We really didn’t have anything to lose. Now we know the business is in good hands and should stand a real good chance of working out.”