A movie theatre could liven up Rycroft's 'dying' main street, says hotel manager

Sheldon Rice wants to bring the silver screen to Rycroft.

The village, about 70 km north of Grande Prairie, is decidedly sleepy these days.

With a population of around 600, its biggest claims to fame are summer chuckwagon races and a lovingly preserved train caboose that sits permanently idle at the centre of town.

It’s been sad to see the community fall into decline, Rice said.

“It’s a small town that has slowly been dying off in the last six or seven years,” Rice said in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

“I go outside and you look up and down the street and all you can see is ‘for sale’ signs and ‘for lease’ signs everywhere.

“All the main buildings on main street are empty. People have been closing their doors “

Rice, the manager partner of the Rycroft Hotel, is convinced a new movie theatre could liven things up and breathe life into his business.

He’s put in an application with the village to construct a one-screen, 60-seat movie theatre inside the hotel.

The movie theatre would offer new releases and 3D movies, Rice said.

“I hope that this will draw more people in from those surrounding communities into Rycroft and help revitalize this main street, because it needs it,” he said.

“Providing that I get the blessing of the [village] and all the powers that be, we’ll go ahead and get it set up.”

‘She was pretty run down’ 

Rice bought the hotel after quitting his job in the oilpatch so he could spend more time with his young children. 

Since then, he has been working to renovate the old building, sprucing up the rooms, renovating the restaurant and adding a convenience store.

The property had good bones but needed a lot of work, he said.

“She was pretty run down,” Rice said with a chuckle. “I saw a lot of potential but it was covered in a lot of dirt and dust and needed a lot of TLC.

“Me, being a good do-it-yourselfer, I thought it would be a fun project. I dumped about $200,000 into fixing the place up and brought it into the 21st century and fixed a bunch of stuff so the building can last.”

‘Everybody is talking’

Now that the renovation work is completed, there is a large unused room just waiting for a new purpose, Rice said. 

And he’s optimistic about his prospects with the village. He has already bought a bunch of salvaged theatre seats and a new popcorn machine.

The townspeople, he said, are ready to take their seats.

“I just put one little post on Facebook letting people know that we put in an application and it just blew up. Everybody is talking about it.

“In a perfect world, I would have it up and running by June. We don’t live in a perfect world, so who knows but the construction shouldn’t take long at all.”

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