Historic theater needs your help...

New Strand Theatre starts GoFundMe page to purchase new projector


The New Strand Theatre, a staple in the community since 1910, has come to the community of West Liberty for financial help.

“Renovations and repairs to the New Strand are costly,” states Deb Lowman on the Theaters GoFundMe page. “We need your help to keep the restoration process going.”

Their current crisis: the projector quit working. At the beginning of February a power outage broke the projector, which was already on the out.

As a response the movie theater has been unable to show movies, a devastating development for the community business.

“We can’t do anything until we replace the projector, and once we do that we’ll need to upgrade the sound system,” says Lowman.

Lowman and Mac Howes purchased the community theater from Todd Leach in December of 2015, keeping the long legacy of the theater alive in the community.

The single screen cinema sits 230 people, located in historic downtown West Liberty. For years it has been the community’s go-to movie theater.

Beyond the movies, the stage has been used for live events, productions by the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre and other non-profit events.

However, current upkeep has been costly. Right now the theater needs a new projector, which comes with a price tag of around $55,000.

Of course, the nearly two feet of snow fall in West Liberty mid-January didn’t help much either.  The build-up of precipitation on the New Strand marquee nearly caused it to collapse.

“The New Strand Theatre has been in a constant state of change and restoration,” says Lowman. “From keeping up with film technology, to keeping the old building alive and well, we have made every effort to preserve the historic beauty of the old theatre.”

Indeed, the theater has been one of the biggest stand-out attractions for West Liberty’s downtown district. While many businesses have come and gone, the theater has remained constant.

Howes and Lowman maintain day jobs outside of the New Strand. Until the projector broke, the theater covered its own operating expenses, but the cost of renovations come from the owner’s personal investment.

In fact, since 2016 they have not made a profit from its daily operation. Any extra revenue gets put back into the theater for repairs.

The hope of this latest GoFundMe Campaign is to buy a projector and keep the theater running. It can be found by searching for the New Strand Theatre on GoFundMe.com.

So far, the page has raised a little over $6,500 towards its $65,000 goal through nearly 90 donations. The page was created on Feb. 3.

“Without help the restoration can only occur as savings built from revenue over time,” says Lowman. “Our fear is that deterioration will occur faster than we can put the funds together to keep on top of the restoration process.”

The New Strand Theater was built in 1910 as an Opera House for the entertainment of residents in West Liberty, as well as those traveling by train.

The theater found its distinct look in 2008/09, when the owners of the time, Todd and Kerri Leach, took an interest in furthering renovations.

They fully restored the entry way and decorated the ticket booth in the style of Gustav Klimt’s 1909 Tree of Life Frieze, using wooden appliqués, jewels and Goldberg reels.

The lobby was updated with burgundy wainscoting and a gold swirled ceiling. Back lit movie poster cases were hung and much of the woodwork was stripped and restored.

When the theater changed hands in 2015, Malcom Howes and Deb Lowman began the effort to reconstruct and restore the building while maintaining the aesthetic.

In 2016, the stage floor was repaired and given a new roof with insulation. The duo redecorated the ticket booth and staff area and retiled the concession/ticket booth area.

In 2017 the owners redid the roof over the Knights of Pythias room, during which they estimated 14 tons of roofing material was removed from the New Strand Theater.

In 2018, Howes focused on the balcony area, which included moving the movie projector forward, allowing the balcony restoration to move to the next phase.

In 2019 Howes and Lowman redid the stage lighting and repaired the stage floor in order to host the live production of “It's A Wonderful Life” in collaboration with the public library.

In 2022 Howes began designing a custom concession counter for the second floor. He also extended the second-floor entrance out to the edge of the building.

Plans for the future renovations are numerous, including the restoration of the second-floor balcony and the addition of a mini-concession area and public restroom.

They would also like to refurbish the front marquee. Currently the metal marquee wraps around the original wooden marquee which has begun to deteriorate.

Howes and Lowman are also looking to renovate the existing projectionist's apartment located on the third floor, update the stage, lighting, and sound system.

Then there’s the apartments above the theater. If renovated, they could provide additional revenue towards keeping the theater running.

“There is always something needing to be restored to prevent deterioration, repaired to keep it functioning, or something to be updated to provide the highest quality film and sound standards that keep the doors open and people flowing through,” says Lowman.

“They aren't necessarily in any order, and we don't have a set time frame,” she says. “Renovation occurs as funding allows and necessity dictates.”

For now, feel free to donate to the current revitalization at GoFundMe.com, just make sure to search for New Strand Theatre.