The Tunkhannock community and beyond wants the Dietrich Theater to stay around.
“I think there’s something very communal about the movie going experience and that’s what people expect when they come out to the Dietrich,” said Dietrich Theater Executive Director Erica Rogler. “I think that will continue.”
Despite setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, its staff, board and community partners remain optimistic for the theater’s future.
But they need community support.
On June 2, the theater kicked off its “Help the Dietrich… Help the Community” campaign, which the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau has spearheaded to ensure the nonprofit withstands its temporary shutdown.
The theater has been closed since March 17 in compliance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions on non-essential businesses.
The theater has deferred its loan payments and cut down costs wherever possible. With the exception of Rogler, all Dietrich employees have been laid off, though they continue working on a volunteer basis.
That leaves around $5,500 of monthly operating expenses.
The Dietrich has also canceled its seasonal film festivals for the spring and summer and will miss out on significant summer fundraisers like Founders Day and River Day. Throughout this time off, the theater’s newsletter and social media have been filled with online activities and movie recommendations from its instructors and staff.
Even when the theater reopens once Wyoming County enters the green phase of Gov. Wolf’s statewide plan, it could only welcome guests at half of its normal capacity.
However, when taking social distancing guidelines into consideration, Rogler said this would really be around a quarter of its maximum capacity.
“The community has been with the Dietrich from the very beginning,” she said. “They’re why we were able to come back and they’ve helped us through difficult situations before, like the flood of 2011, and we know they’ll help us through this as well.”
EMVB Executive Director Jean Ruhf said people may not be aware that the Dietrich Theater is a non-profit organization. Besides movies, it offers a variety of classes and programs at little to no cost.
“It’s the whole cultural center,” she said. “It’s the art exhibits, it’s the open mic nights, it’s all of those things wrapped up into one.”
Ruhf, who called the Dietrich “the cornerstone of the community,” wanted to help Rogler bring attention to ways the public could help during the closure.
“For them to get back up and running even at 50 percent, they still need a lot of support from the community,” she said.
There are a number of ways to show support for the Dietrich.
- Become a theater member, purchase gift cards or make a monetary donation.
- Rent out the marquee to give a shoutout to a graduating senior or another loved one celebrating a milestone. Call 570-836-1022, ext. 6.
- Purchase popcorn on Friday nights through curbside pickup for movies at home.
- Rent a movie listed through direct links on dietrichtheater.com and a portion of your purchase will directly benefit the theater.
- Come out to Samario’s Pizza in Tunkhannock on Sunday, June 14 from 3 to 7 p.m. The restaurant plans to sell 600 penne pasta meals with two meatballs and a dinner roll at $9 each, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Dietrich.
“It’s a true testament of our community,” Rogler said. “The folks of Wyoming County are so generous. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors than Samario’s and the Visitors Bureau goes above and beyond. They want us and all the businesses in Wyoming County to succeed and we’re so profoundly grateful for their support.”
John Keker, president of the Dietrich Theater, hopes the theater can continue with its mission to serve the community way into the future.
“The number of classes and activities that we have outside of the movies, there’s thousands of people over the years who have benefited from them, both children and adults,” Keker said. “It’s just part of hometown.”
For more information about the campaign, visit dietrichtheater.com and “Dietrich Theater” on Facebook, or call 570-836-1022, ext. 2.