An iconic community theater in downtown Plymouth is about to go on tour. The REES Cinema Theatre was the vision of Stewart and Opal Rees and brought to life by noted architect Alves O’Keefe. Construction on the theater began in July of 1939 that transformed a massive three-story brick structure built in 1865 known as the VanVactor Building. The doors opened in February 1940 with the movie “Remember the Night” starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. “Gone with the Wind” was soon to follow, and the REES provided cinematic entertainment to the Marshall County community the ensuing 70 years. State of the art dual projection and a “first in the Midwest cry room” were some of the innovative features. In 2009 it became victim of the multiplex theaters and closed.
It has been nearly three and a half years since the public has been invited to tour the historic venue. “A lot has happened since that April weekend in 2017,” says project co-chair Randy Danielson. “We’ve demolished, stabilized and rebuilt a lot of the interior and now we feel we’re ready to invite folks in to see what’s been accomplished.”
In the spring of 2017 The REES was enrolled as a member of The League of Historic American Theatres. “While attending a national conference in Ft. Wayne, we were advised that this journey would take 5-10 years.” said Danielson. “If not for the early leadership and support of the Wythougan Valley Preservation Council, Marshall County Historical Museum, Discover Plymouth and City Administration, this might not have gotten off the ground. The community’s love for this local landmark has seen the generosity of hundreds of individuals, businesses and corporations in bringing this community project through the first three of four phases in less than four years.”
In addition to the grassroots effort The REES has attained the financial support of the Marshall County Community Foundation, Plymouth Redevelopment Commission, and the Regional Cities Initiative and advisement from the office of Marshall County Economic Development. Most recently the Marshall County Crossroads – Indiana Stellar Initiative selected The REES as a hallmark project in the City of Plymouth. This grant application has been submitted to the Indiana Office of Rural and Community Affairs. If awarded, phase four will be out for bid yet this fall that will complete the buildout of the interior for an adjusted opening date in the summer of 2021. The REES Project Committee is focused on returning The REES to its highly acclaimed status of opening night in February of 1940. Design details have been led by Plymouth architect Brent Martin and the Warsaw firm of SRKM Architecture. Former resident Olivia Danielson-Veed is assisting in the interior design schedule.
This community venue will support film presentations, the performing arts, education and a gathering space to celebrate life events.
Donor assistance remains for today’s advanced technology in audio/visual needs as well as furnishing the auditorium. Donor funds are being accepted and administered by the Marshall County Community Foundation, 2680 Miller Drive, Suite 120, Plymouth, IN 46563. More information is available at www.reesproject.com
Indeed, there have been many changes to the auditorium and sustainable renewal throughout including a rooftop solar array.
Many sections of the auditorium have been roughed out, including the stage, balcony, orchestra pit and a small catering kitchen.
“It’s exciting to see what the changes are,” added Donna Pontius, Danielson’s co-chair of the project. “We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
REES project members Cassie Quissell and Sean Hatfield have organized a progress tour scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2020 from 10 am to noon and Sunday, October 4, 2020 from 1:00 and 3:00. “We hope that these dates and hours will offer everyone who wants to see the interior an opportunity to do so.”
Project members will be manning stations throughout the building to direct individuals and to answer any questions they might have and a ‘free will’ offering accepted.
Masks are required for this event and social distancing is encouraged whenever possible. Hand sanitizer will be available and as always, while we’d love you to see what’s happened already, please stay home if you’re not feeling well.