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Wayne Majestic Theater

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Melanie Loggins stands outside the Majestic Theatre in Wayne, Neb. After the theater closed more than two years ago, the community raised more than $500,000 to renovate it and reopen it. The theater will show its first movie, “TRON: Legacy,” tonight.

WAYNE, Neb. -- The big screen comes back to life in Wayne tonight.

And when "TRON: Legacy" starts rolling, part of Wayne will be coming back to life, too.

Before even showing a movie, The Majestic Theatre has proven to be more than just a place to watch movies. It's evidence of a town full of people who weren't content to accept a bad break.

"It really is more than a movie theater to them. It's a symbol that they didn't want their town to be stagnant," said Melanie Loggins, the theater's coordinator. "Somebody described this community as restless ... they don't want to settle for how it is."

In April 2008, the Twin Theater closed abruptly, meaning the nearest movie theater was 40 miles away in Norfolk or Sioux City. Many residents missed being able to walk downtown to watch a movie. Community leaders decided Wayne's theater must be reopened.

"If we had just turned the lights on and started showing movies, they'd go," Loggins said of how much residents wanted a movie theater.

There was a much grander vision than that. The 50-year-old building hadn't been updated for who knows how long. Plans quickly emerged to gut the interior and convert it back to a single-screen theater with all the amenities of a new one -- 156 new seats, digital projection and digital sound.

Wayne residents embraced the plan. Despite challenging economic times, the majority of the $600,000 needed was raised in a year. There were a few grants, but most of the money was donated, and not raised through fundraising events.

Demolition and construction was done by dozens of volunteers adding up to thousands of hours. Construction professionals donated their time, or reduced their rates. Other companies kicked in services or supplies at cost.

It became a community project in every sense of the word.

"They really embrace it as theirs. I'm not from here, so it makes me proud to be here, too," said Loggins, a Houston native who moved here with her husband, who teaches at Wayne State College, more than two years ago.

It will remain a community endeavor. Community groups will run concessions. In exchange for their work, those groups will receive 10 percent of the gross sales from their shift.

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That's not all. A stage at the front of the theater has been restored, and the Wayne Community Theatre gets use of the theater three weekends every year. The stage and reception area will also be available for recitals, dances, private parties, receptions -- just about anything.

"We are determined and committed that this stays a place that the community is involved in," Loggins said.

That shouldn't be a problem, based on the excitement that built as today's opening neared. Loggins said it was impossible to pick her kids up from school or go grocery shopping without at least one person asking what the first movie would be. She just chuckles at the excitement. With so many people donating time and money to the project, they have every right to be.

"This is a community-run theater, and we want them to be proud and feel ownership," she said.

Now it's time to buy some popcorn (extra butter, please) and enjoy the show.

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