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Renovations are underway for the historic Burley Theatre at the heart of the community

Posted at 5:30 PM, May 20, 2024

BURLEY, Idaho — For over a century, the Burley Theatre has been a movie house. Before that, it hosted vaudeville shows, and century-old backdrops still hang behind the silver screen. Now, the Burley Theatre is destined for a restoration effort with Mt. Harrison Heritage Foundation leading the way.

  • Burley Theatre was built in 1914 and was owned by the Harris Family for over a century.
  • Goode Motor Educational Foundation acquired the building last year and is working with the Mt. Harrison Heritage Foundation.
  • The project recently received grants: $100,000 from the Idaho Heritage Foundation, and $60,000 from the Burley Lions Club.

(Below is the transcript from the broadcast story)

“Here's the tour everybody wanted to do they were kids,” Brian Muir said, as he led us through the door to the left of the big screen.

Muir is the board president of the Mt. Harrison Heritage Foundation, and he was giving me and a group of Lions Club members a tour of the Burley Theatre.

Built in 1914 as a vaudeville house, the Burley Theatre switched to showing movies since the 1920s.

“I distinctly remember watching Home Alone from that box,” Muir said. “And throwing popcorn off of it so, I'm sorry, Mr. Harris.”

The backstage and basement are time capsules of a different era, with set pieces and backdrops that have been hidden for almost a century.

An era that's about to be restored and modernized

The Harris family, who owned the theater for over 100 years, recently sold the property last year to the Goode Motors Education Foundation. The Mt. Harrison Heritage Foundation, which was a driving force in getting the King Fine Arts Center built at Burley High School, has undertaken the effort to renovate and restore the Burley Theatre to its original glory.

The Burley Lions Club has pitched in, donating $60,000 for a new roof.

"I've done 30 productions in 60 years," Lions Club member John Craner told me. As he sees it, having a 400-seat theater in Burley will make it more economical to produce shows, when royalties are charged by the seat.

“But if you can get this kind of a venue, then you can bring it back to original what it would've been, should be, what it was,” Craner said.

Other small Magic Valley Theaters have recently been revitalized, encouraging this crew to keep at it.

"Our area I feel like has an amazing appreciation for the arts considering that it's a small world community,” Muir said. “There's a lot of talented people and when you when do auditions, it's amazing to see who comes out.”