Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Jacob Misener

Goodhand Theatre has shown ability to adapt and entertain with the times


Jacob Misener

The Goodhand Theatre was recently given to Forward Kimball Industries by the city, and will look to attract potential buyers in the coming months.

Fifty-nine years ago, Miss Marie Goodhand opened the doors of the Goodhand Theatre for the first time. The style and luxury offered by the structure were matched by none in the area, drawing the ire and admiration of people throughout Kimball.

“More seats could have been put in the theatre, but the rows were spaced 36 inches apart, three more inches than usual, so the patrons would have plenty of room,” read an article in the February 25, 1954 edition of the Observer. “The large lobby is tastefully decorated with paneling of Philippine mahogany. Four glass doors provide ample room for large crowds moving in or out.”

Although time has drastically changed the art of moviemaking, and for that matter, movie-going, the Goodhand Theatre in downtown Kimball has adapted with the times, always offering a film experience to the people of the Nebraska Panhandle. Memories of the theater continue to live on in the hearts and minds of people of Kimball.

“(I have) great memories of Saturday morning matinees. 25 cardboard circles from Kimball Creamery for admission,” recalled Karen Anderson on the Observer Facebook page.

Miss Goodhand, for whom the theater is still named today, revolutionized the way movies were viewed in Kimball after moving to Kimball in the summer of 1918.

“In the summer of 1918, she (Ms. Goodhand) and another school teacher from Oregon, Marble Helzer, came to Kimball and started showing motion pictures in the Fraternal Hall. Miss Goodhand later returned to Kimball in 1923 and purchased the American Theatre, which she has operated continuously since.”

The Goodhand Theatre replaced the American Theatre in the spring of 1954, ending one era in Kimball moviegoing, and beginning another – one that has spanned to this day.

“During my exchange year in Kimball, school year 1960-61, it was customary to spend Friday evenings at the movies; we met our friend in front of the Goodhand. If you had a date knew you had the opportunity of holding hands while watching the movie. In 1960 holding hands with a boy for an Italian girl was really something,” said Anna Robles Milella.

Terry Sorenson and his wife, Amy, owned the theater from 2000 until recently, when the property was transferred to Forward Kimball Industries by the City of Kimball, who holds a large stake in the theater.

The Sorensons purchased the property through an auction, and immediately set to work doing a complete overhaul of the near-half century old building, installing new seats and a new screen, in addition to a bevy of cleaning.

The whole process of playing the movies was not as simple as many people may believe. The Sorensons called upon Barb and Tearle Schmer, of the Nile Theater in Mitchell, for hands-on training and a crash course on running a movie theater.

“You don’t just call and order the movies you want to show,” said Amy Sorenson. “You have to call the studios and negotiate on price, terms and percentages on take. Sometimes the newest must be negotiated on terms because the studio requires the movie to play for a longer period of time.”

After experiencing hard times, and difficulties turning a profit, the couple decided to close the doors of the Goodhand, which has remained closed for over a year now.

With the property under the new ownership of Forward Kimball Industries, it appears that the top priority concerning the theater will be finding an interested buyer to purchase the property, according to Wilson Bowling, Economic Development Director for Kimball.

One thing is abundantly clear amongst the people of Kimball. If the legacy of the Goodhand Theatre is ever going to return to Chestnut Street, it is Kimball itself that must be dedicated to the well-being of the theater.

“I think people could do it - the Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff is an example. However, remember, people have to be willing to volunteer and recruit volunteers,” said Maunette Loeks. “If something like that is to have a chance, people have to be committed even during tough times to support the theater.


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