After nearly 12 years in Kingston, Firehouse Theater owner Craig Smith will not be renewing his lease at the end of May and will be looking for a buyer in hopes of keeping the iconic small-town theater going.
Smith said due to health conditions and his wife soon retiring, he is looking to sell. If there is no buyer, it could be in jeopardy of closing or move to another location.
“There are people who want to keep it open. I want to keep it open,” Smith said. “I have a heart condition, and I’ve had some issues. The cardiologist told me I should not be doing these kinds of things anymore.”
The business hasn’t been listed yet but Smith said he will be putting it up in the next week or so. He’s looking to sell in the price range of $175,000 to $200,000, adding “everything’s negotiable.”
Smith said he would help a buyer learn the ropes and build relationships with the community for a few months. Although he would no longer be running the business, Smith has no plans to leave Indianola, where he was born and raised.
“You’re going to have to carry me out feet first,” he said.
Smith also hopes to continue coaching boys soccer at Kingston High School, health permitting.
After being closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the theater reopened in April of 2021 and endured many twists and turns along the way. To start, movie showings were only twice a week. Smith then began providing the option for people to rent the theater to watch movies via DVD or from their personal streaming accounts.
The movie Hamilton was a huge success for theater renters since it was only offered on Disney Plus. Smith said, “It’s a totally different experience watching it on the big screen. It’s like going to a Broadway show.”
Theater rental is still an option, although not as frequently since it’s open five days a week now. Smith said people can rent it Mondays and Tuesdays when the theater is closed or before or after hours of operation Wednesday through Sunday.
“There are some great movies that belong on the big screen but you can only get them on Netflix or Amazon Prime,” he said.
The Firehouse typically has three to six showings a day of new films. Since reopening, Smith said business has been “up and down,” depending on what movies are coming out each month. He said October was good because of the new James Bond movie “No Time to Die” and the first couple weeks of the new Spiderman movie were also successful.
With the omicron variant spreading rapidly, Smith said things have died down but he’s hoping only for a brief time.
“The fear thing has crept back in here over the holidays,” he said. “I do think it’s going to settle down. I’m very optimistic.”
Starting Jan. 25, Smith will begin requiring people to show proof of vaccination every Tuesday, just the matinees and early evening shows at first, since a lot of his customers are older, and he wants to ensure they feel safe.
Smith said whenever he leaves he will miss the people along with selecting the films. He said many parents take their children to see their first movie at the Firehouse. “I always get a kick out of that.”
He added a buyer could do whatever they want with the site, but he hopes it stays close to what it is now.
“I believe in this art form,” he said. “The industry is in flux. They create this stuff to be seen on the big screen with a shared emotional response (audience). Beethoven would be pretty upset if there were no more symphonies. A movie theater is something a small town can maintain. I’m hoping somebody else will continue that on.”