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George Stark, right, of Cabot shares a word with Ron Vieczorek during the Thursday evening reception.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

John Keker addresses those attending a reception.

The Dietrich Theater can breathe again.

Theater board chairman John Keker told those in attendance at a Thursday evening ‘thank-you’ showing of Harrison Ford’s classic ‘Indiana Jones,’ that by donating to a Sustainability Campaign launched in 2018, “you helped secure the future of the Dietrich Theater.”

What the Dietrich was facing was close to a mountain of debt when it announced its public campaign last October.

And, it was crushing, Dietrich executive director Erica Rogler said.

“We needed to retire $335,000 in debt to free up about $32,000 a year in cash flow to allow us to endure difficult movie seasons,” she noted.

But, she was all smiles Thursday night showing off an artistic rendering of a giving tree in the lobby of the Dietrich Theater with more than 180 donor units having raised over $340,000.

Keker retraced the theater’s checkered past - that is before a group of ladies got the “new” Dietrich up and running again after it had had about 20 years of being closed, having fallen into disrepair.

He smiled about how their vision worked, and also about how what the people in Tunkhannock and surrounding area came to expect of “more than just the movies” in the Wyoming County Cultural Center and how with each challenge volunteers were mobilized to get them through somehow.

An example was the flood of 2011 when the community at large could be credited for its recovery from the flood, when business owners and individuals responded to the needs of the theater by providing labor and materials for the needed cleanup and repairs.

But the expensive, temporary closure was followed by some setbacks and an eye for future needs if the theater was to thrive.

“We decided that we needed to guarantee the Dietrich’s future for generations to come,” Rogler said, and she and Margie Young went about to sell an idea.

“We received a rapid and positive response from the community, businesses, foundations and individuals,” she recalled. “We found industries like Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and Williams not only lent their support to the campaign but asked how they could help in other ways,”

Their financial support, Rogler said, was a natural extension of the dedicated patronage of the companies’ employees, who had been coming to the theater for many years. “It means much more to them than just supporting a community landmark,” says Rogler. “They have shown us that they are here to stay and want to support us in the long run.”

Rogler noted that she hoped that the classic, small town vibe of the renovated theater also appealed to people related to the gas industry, as an alternative to larger facilities in the cities.

“It sure does,” said Cabot’s Bill desRosiers who acknowledged he couldn’t imagine going to another venue for movies.

Rogler also acknowledged that “We’re always looking at ways to cut costs,” and explained that “Right now, our energy burden is that of 40 houses, which is significant.”

She said that news that natural gas will be available to residents and businesses over the next few years via a project spearheaded by the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce is a great relief to board members.

“If we convert to natural gas,” she said, “the savings will be significant.”

To celebrate its successful Sustainability Campaign, the Dietrich Theater offered a free screening last Thursday with Cabot furnishing a reception to thank all of the contributors.

In looking over the Dietrich’s history since its rebirth more than 15 years ago, Keker said, “It’s hard to imagine Tunkhannock without the Dietrich, and now we don’t have to.”