The Empire Arts Center re-dedicated its building and announced a new film series during an open house held Sunday, Nov. 11, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its opening.
Mayor Mike Brown and several Empire Arts Center staff members highlighted the formal ceremony by cutting the middle of a ribbon held between them.
In a brief speech, Emily Montgomery, the theater's executive director, summarized critical turning points in the building’s history, including those junctures when its continued existence was in question.
Montgomery praised the board members, past and present, who have guided the Empire’s progress, including those who voted unanimously -- after a loss of $100,000 to $200,000 spent in renovations -- to continue the renovation project in the wake of the Flood of ‘97.
After the Flood of ‘97, the Empire Arts Center was the first to declare its intent to return to downtown Grand Forks and likely emboldened other commercial interests to do the same, she said.
Montgomery also cited the generosity of sponsors, donors and benefactors whose gifts have kept the doors open and allowed for the expansion of programming, including bold and innovative entertainment options for people in this area.
During Sunday’s open house, guests were treated to tours of the building, a kids story-time and free refreshments, including birthday cake, courtesy of Hugo’s Family Marketplace, and popcorn.
Short films from the early to mid-1900s were shown throughout the event, which ran from 2 to 4:30 p.m.
The upcoming film series, titled “Flashback Films,” will begin in January and feature classic movies, such as “The Godfather,” which launches the series.
In committing to a film series, the Empire is revitalizing the original mission of the building which opened as the New Grand on Nov. 11, 1919, Montgomery said.
On that date, the theater opened as the largest in town ever built for the purpose of showing only “moving pictures,” as they were referred to then.
In February, two films, not yet selected, will be shown Feb. 15 and 16 in collaboration with the UND Black Student Association.
Films that are scheduled include: “The Godfather,” Jan. 17; “The Princess Bride,” Jan. 19; First Daughter and the Black Snake,” March 9, shown in collaboration with the UND Indian Association; “A League of Their Own,” March 10; “On the Basis of Sex,” March 11, shown in collaboration with the Greater Grand Forks Women’s Leadership Cooperative; “Hidden Figures,” March 12, shown in collaboration with the Girls Scouts Dakota Horizons; “The Farewell,” March 13; “Frozen,” March 14; “A Quiet Place,” April 17; “The Goonies,” April 19; “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” May 15; and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” May 17.
Admission will be $5 per person and free for children ages 9 and younger.
For more information, call (701) 746-5500 or visit www.empireartscenter.com.
The Empire Arts Center is located at 415 DeMers Ave.