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'It does re-establish a bit of normality': Historic Central Texas theater reopens after shutdown

Posted at 10:29 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 00:01:24-05

CLIFTON, Texas — The oldest continuously operating movie theater in the state of Texas reopened its doors to patrons Thursday night after a long-term shutdown caused by the pandemic.

The Cliftex Theater in Clifton opened back in 1916 as the "Queen Theatre," showing silent films. Over time, the theater evolved and changed names, showing new films to stay afloat.

Now, it must evolve again.

In 2020, theater owner Rich Douglas sold the theater to Veritas Theaters, but after the pandemic stopped them from allowing patrons, they had to back out of the deal. In October, Megan and Richard Major purchased the theater with the intention of continuing its rich history.

"We wanted to make sure we kept it local and carried on that same great tradition of having places for families to come and gather," Richard said.

It turned out to be an even bigger undertaking than they expected.

The Majors took inventory of their available assets and aimed for a December "Grand Re-Opening." However, not long before, the couple came in close contact with a COVID-positive person. So, they pushed their plans back.

Beyond COVID-19, Richard says figuring out the process to purchase films has been difficult, especially given the low number of films being released in theaters during the pandemic.

"It's been challenging, but we will know more as we get open and start operating," Megan said.

The Majors decided to change the theater's showtimes to accommodate the state's capacity regulations. In previous years, it would only show films Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as well as Sunday afternoon. Now, they will have six showings every weekend.

The Cliftex finally re-opened to the public February 4 with a showing of the movie "News of the World."

"I know there's a long way to go, but still, it does re-establish a bit of normality," said Jo Atkinson, who attended the theater's opening.

Atkinson was a Thursday night regular prior to the pandemic. She said the community of movie-goers has become her friends and seeing them again brought back fond memories.

"It got to be like a big family," she said.

Stories like that helped inspire the Majors to purchase the theater back in October.

"People had first dates, first kisses, first movies for kids. It just goes back a long time, over a hundred years," Richard said.

They say the community has already responded positively to their ownership.

"It's unbelievable how many people have either called us directly or stopped us on the street or in church and thanked us and said, 'We are so proud of y'all for taking on this challenge,'" Richard said.