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Bemidji couple to reopen Blackduck Theater

BLACKDUCK — Since the beginning of the year, Blackduck folks have had to travel out of town to see a movie.

Owner Bob Moore — who also owns 18 screens in the Fosston Theatre, the Grand Theatre in Crookston and the River Cinema in East Grand Forks — closed the Blackduck business because of the cost of hiring employees and upgrading projection equipment with digital.

But with the sale of the Blackduck Theater to Bob and Heidi Mabe of Bemidji, movies will roll again soon. They hope to have the business open by the end of May.

Buying the theater required funds from several sources to raise the $86,000 needed for the purchase. Bob Mabe said they own rental properties and sold a contract for deed from one of them.

They dipped into personal savings, he said. They also borrowed from First National Bank Bemidji and received a $28,380 revolving loan from the city. The Blackduck City Council unanimously approved the loan at Monday’s regular meeting.

“He’s got a good buy,” said City Administrator Karin Elhard. “Projections look good. The guy seems to know the business.”

Mayor Megan Gustafson said people were sad when the theater closed.

Now, she said, they need to step up and support the new owners by patronizing the business.

“We’re excited,” Mabe said. “I never owned a movie theater. I always wanted to be part of that.”

He said his family knew he was interested in owning a theater.

When his sister was in Blackduck, he said she saw the sign in the theater door and gave him Moore’s contact information. From there they worked out the deal.

He said he has close ties with the Blackduck Theater, where he watched movies regularly growing up. “I was there a lot,” he said.

The theater is also a historic building for the city.

“I think this theater opened in the 1920s,” Mabe said. “My grandparents used to go to that theater.”

Mabe said he will upgrade to digital projection installed and maintained by Joe Edwards, a Blackduck area technician. “We’re also putting in a new sound system with a subwoofer,” he said.

New carpet and other interior remodeling are also on the to-do list, he said.

However, he intends preserve low ticket and concessions prices. “To compete with the mega theaters like Bemidji, you have to keep the prices down,” he said.

Mabe remembers pizza as a concessions offering at the theater when he was a youngster, and said he might add that to the popcorn and candy in the future.

Bob and Heidi have five children: Cassidy, 15; Ashlynn, 13; Alex, 11; Quin, 9; and Amelia, 2. The older children are excited about helping out in the theater, he said.