culver movie theater 1942September 3 will be something of a ‘Cinema Saturday’ in Culver. Besides the L’Max Film Fest that evening, those interested will have a chance to take a look inside the 1923-era Culver movie theater on Lake Shore Drive and become involved in restoring it to its former glory.

The location, most recently known as Uptown Cinema and located at 612 Lake Shore Drive in ‘uptown’ Culver, may be best remembered by earlier generations as the El Rancho Theater, the Lakeside Cinema, or even (in earlier years) as the Palms. It was home to nearly a century of movie memories for multiple generations before shutting its doors in 2012.

Last year saw announcement that a new owner had purchased the theater, with local project coordinator Joel Samuelson navigating some of the steps needed to bring the theater back to life.

Now a group of volunteers — led by Samuelson and other members of the not-for-profit Maxinkuckee Theatre Association in collaboration with local preservation organization Culver-Union Twp. Heritage — are partnering to continue that effort, with hopes of garnering community support for the project.

On Sat., Sept. 3, from 2 to 6 p.m. (just before the start of that evening’s L’Max “Gift of Warmth” film festival in the town park, across the street from the theater), the public is welcome to drop by for a look inside the cinema, a “Q & A” with those present, and an opportunity to sign up to assist with the project, which is hoped to eventually culminate in reopening the theater for use in showing select movies as well as live performance.

Earlier that same day, at 10 a.m., during Culver’s Farmers Market in the Culver town park, interested folks are welcome to a free presentation by Jeff Kenney of Culver-Union Twp Heritage. Kenney will detail the history of the theater (and other cinemas in the Culver area), with vintage photographs included in the program.

Those with questions may direct them to or via


Photo:  The movie theater in Culver, Ind., then known as the El Rancho, is seen here during a 1942 World War II “junk drive,” with then-owner Evert Hoesel standing outside. A non-profit organization managing the project has partnered with a local heritage group in Culver towards bringing the theater back to life.