Behind the Business: The Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin

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FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — The Historic Artcraft Theatre has been entertaining movie fans since 1922, and it continues that tradition by keeping classic movies on the big screen.

“If you watch a movie here, a classic horror movie ‘Friday the 13th’ or something, and you got this place packed, and that scene comes on, and the girl in front [screams], it goes all the way through the theater and everybody feels it,” said Rob Shilts, executive director of the theater.

Shilts hopes to keep the place true to its time: the days before the digital era.

“You’re getting the experience — that old movie experience — of the neon and kind of the flash and glitz and glamour of that era,” said George Chimples, the theater’s director of programming and events.

“Here, the presentation, you’re seeing it in 35 mm, in the way that the directors and the producers and all artists working on it intended for it to be seen,” Chimples said.

It’s a feeling moviegoers in Franklin have appreciated over the years and it’s also shining a spotlight that people can see from outside the city.

“We get people from all over the state from all over that maybe wouldn’t be coming to Franklin otherwise,” Chimples said.

Shilts said the Artcraft has gotten visitors from as far away as England.

However, in 2003, they almost lost that potential, when the city condemned the aging building.

The theater was revamped and reconstructed by Franklin Heritage Inc. in 2004 and is now completely run by volunteers.

“All of our volunteers are here because they have a passion for this place,” Shilts said.

The Artcraft also hosts a number of community events throughout the year to keep people coming in.

They believe in one place you’re getting the best of what Franklin has to offer, from the moment customers walk in the door. One of the features they brag on the most is the locally grown popcorn.

“It’s the best popcorn in town,” Chimples laughed.

If you haven’t got a chance yet, they encourage you to come taste and see what you’ve been missing in the city of Franklin.

“Having this as an anchor here has helped really grow the downtown and make it into a place where a lot of people really want to get in on this action and just be a part of it,” Chimples said.

Organizers say they always keep their main motivation in mind when trying to make the theater better for movie fans.

“It’s community,” Shilts said. “That’s what this is about.”

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