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Historic Masonic Theatre struggles after pandemic

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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CLIFTON FORGE, Va. (WDBJ) - “This is one of my daily rituals,” said Historic Masonic Theatre Executive Director Justin Reiter as he walked through the building, “to look at cracks in the building and molding and trying to understand what’s -- what can we fix now. What can we afford to fix right now.”

His job at the Historic Masonic Theatre takes in more, much more than just booking acts.

“Yeah, every morning when I walk into this 116-year-old building I see something else,” Reiter said.

Worn floorboards, HVAC problems, and swelling doors are just the tip of the iceberg. And when you add the pandemic, well …

“The last 18 months have been a tremendous challenge with no revenue,” Reiter explained, “not only for our theater but for all live entertainment venues.”

All this in a business that is a constant balance between paying the acts and finding an audience.

“When you book a show, it’s not unlike pulling a slot machine in Las Vegas,” he said. “You really have to put something out there that the people want to see, and are willing to pay the price to see that person.”

But with additional expenses, they’re searching for the answer.

“We’re trying to figure out where our audience is coming from, when they’re going to feel comfortable coming back,” according to Reiter. “It’s a challenge unlike any other that I think live entertainment has seen.”

Leaving them standing on the precipice.

“The next few months for this theater are critical,” he said. “We need to have people to come see shows. We need people to support the theater. It is a very challenging time right now for us.”

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