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Over 100 years in business, Burley Theatre closes down for now due to pandemic

"We kinda do it as a service to the community, it never makes money but people need that, you know, people need to be able to come to the movies."

BURLEY, Idaho — The entertainment industry was one of the first things to feel the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. Concerts ceased, plays postponed and films frozen.

When Hollywood pumped the breaks on movie production and released more movies online, theaters were left with little to show. Some theaters are now playing retro movies, with 80s classics on the marquee.

Small theaters, like the Burley Theatre in Burley, have had to do the same thing, just whatever it takes to bring customers through their doors.

The Burley Theatre has been operating for over 100 years, surviving the Spanish Flu pandemic, but the coronavirus pandemic may be what shutters the theatre down.

"It's an old building about a 110 years old built somewhere 1910, 1912. I don't know the exact date of the building," Bob Harris said. 

Bob is the third generation of the Harris family to run the small-town theater, with the fourth and fifth generations already working there.

"I started working at the theatre when I was 13," Kim, Bob's daughter and fourth generation of the Harris to run the theater, said. "I worked in concessions and honestly I worked at the theatre until I graduated from high school and then I went to college at ISU. Drove to Pocatello every day worked at the theatre again until I graduated from college."

Kim became a teacher after college, got married and had kids, but she could never shake herself from the smell of freshly popped popcorn. Her dad entrusted the theatre to Kim and her husband.

While it's been a while seen the theatre shown first-run movies, it has stayed a Burley family staple over the years.

"And you know, honestly, that place is one of the places that I have my best memories of my life," Kim said. "And you know honestly, we kinda do it as a service to the community, it never makes money but people need that, you know, people need to be able to come to the movies for two dollars and if we break even then we're happy." 

That happiness ended when the coronavirus pandemic began and forced venues like movie theaters to close down. But when they first reopened, they were able to show what they'd like.

"We got to run all these fun movies that we remembered that we thought families would love to see and it worked ok for the first couple of weeks but then you know our attendance just died," she said.

The Harris family decided to shut the theatre down for now back in August.

When the Fast and the Furious ended on that night in late August, Bob told Kim they'd be back.

"You know, my dad promised me it wouldn't be and I want to hold him to the promise but you know what if it was?" Kim said through tears, "There are bigger things in life there's a lot more going on than our little part of the world but it would be kind of like losing a member of the family."

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