Monday, December 11, 2023

Dome to close for major remodeling

| May 27, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

The Dome Theatre will be closed from May 31 until June 17 for installation of new seats and other renovations.

The theater currently has 488 seats. After the conversion, there will be 320 seats, which will be wider than the previous ones and have more legroom.

Bert Wilson and his wife, Margee, of Denver, and Bert's brother Eric Wilson of Libby, have been planning the work for some time. Other than the new seats, the project is mostly routine maintenance, Bert said.

"The theater just needs a freshening up," he said. "The seats won't be the big high-back type but we will spread them out to give more room. That will make it easier to clean, too."

The seats will be trucked to Libby from California, and must be reassembled inside the theater.

The three co-owners aren't exactly sure what they will do with the old seats. Eric said they are willing to sell them to individuals or an organization for a reasonable price.

Spaces for wheelchairs will be provided in the mid-front section of the theater.

"It's difficult to put a wheelchair on the sloped part of the floor," Bert said, "but about two-thirds of the way down it levels off."

Before the replacement seats are installed, the concrete floor will be cleaned and painted.

"If you don't keep up with it, it gets real sticky," Eric said.

Curtains covering the theater's walls will be removed so the owners can take a look at tapestries underneath. Bert said they might leave them exposed, depending on their condition.

The concession area will get a fresh coat of paint with the art deco theme retained.

"If time permits, we will try to do some renovation in the bathrooms," Bert said.

The Dome opened on June 29, 1948, after the previous theater - the Kootenai - burned to the ground six months earlier. The Kootenai was a wood structure, and the era's high-temperature lamp projectors coupled with highly combustible film increased fire danger, Bert said.

According to Western News files, the Kootenai Theatre was built in 1910 and served as Libby's first opera house. The Nook lunchroom and Pival Electric Store also were housed in the structure.

The loss was estimated at $75,000, and fire inspectors suspected faulty wiring as the cause of the blaze. The Western News touted the new Dome Theatre's "modern cement block construction."

The Dome's first show was "Give My Regards to Broadway," starring Dan Daily and Charles Winninger.

The Wilsons' spruced-up Dome will open with "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith" on the third weekend of June.