SILSBEE, Texas — Hurricane Harvey shut down the 69-year-old Silsbee Pines Theater, turning the lights off to entertainment for Silsbee neighbors.
The Silsbee theater closed down for Harvey in 2017 and hasn't reopened since. It's in desperate need of some tender love and care.
Luckily, three Silsbee women who love Silsbee and love the theater are trying to keep it alive through a restoration project. It's 100% community-backed, so organizers are asking for your help.
Cristy Brown and Sonja Kelley remember the days when this spot in the Silsbee Pines Theater had the best popcorn machine in the world.
Now, the two and a project manager, Rebah Goodwin, took it upon themselves to restore their community theater.
"I saw her passion for it,” Kelley said. “Saw Rebah's passion for it. And of course, I love Silsbee. So why won't why not? Yeah, you know, it's just like a why not? Yeah, why can't we can do this?”
Before closing down for Harvey in 2017, the Silsbee Pines Theater was owned by AMC. After damage from the storm, AMC decided it wasn't worth trying to revamp. After several failed attempts to sell it, Brown's intern had an idea.
“We said, ‘You know what, let's write a letter and see if they'll donate it as a write-off,’” Brown said. “And sure enough, we wrote a compelling letter and in August of 2020, we bought the theater for $1 which was a great feat, but it also created a big mountain to climb because it's a grassroots campaign.”
Now, it's a community effort to restore the theater.
"In two years, we've raised about $150,000, and we just completed step one in the restoration, which was to replace the roof,” Brown said.
They've still got a long way to go. To get to this rendition of the finished project, they're estimating about $2 million. But they have a way to break that up.
"If 2,000 people gave $25 a month, for 24 months, for two years, we would have our funds to restore the theater," Brown said.
And it's not limited to people who live in Silsbee.
"It may be in the heart of Silsbee and it may be in the hearts of Silsbee, but it's also part of Southeast Texas,” Brown said.
Brown said she hopes Silsbee can become like a mini Fredericksburg, where people can come for a weekend getaway, enjoy the lake, the river, the outdoors, and of course, a night at the theater.