LANCASTER — David Fuller Jr. is in the middle of things. His theater is in the middle of downtown Lancaster. He’s usually in the middle of some sort of maintenance of the various machines it takes to keep his business going. He even lives upstairs — right in the middle of the building — above his theater.
And always, always, he is in the middle of trying to schedule the movies and live stage events he hopes will keep people coming to the Rialto. Fuller knows he can’t survive showing Hollywood movies alone, so the theater hosts local films and concerts as well.
The big news recently for the owners is that Lancaster officials in October approved a low-interest loan of $50,000, which is most of the $85,000 Fuller and business partner Greg Cloutierwill need to convert their theater to digital format for showing films, and make necessary upgrades to the sound system.
Fuller said he’s seeking foundation grants for additional money, and a couple of more grassroots endeavors, as well, to boost the theater that’s been a downtown Lancaster landmark since 1931.
The theater offers X-Box gaming for teens on the 30-foot screen. Fuller even showed the Boston Red Sox successful World Series run, free of charge to viewers, taking in only the concession proceeds and any voluntary contributions from the 50 or so Sox fans who turned out.
“We have local films with the director showing up. Concerts on the stage. We just had The Logger (Rusty DeWees) here to benefit the Relay for Life Team. We’ve added a beer and wine license and we have 20 seats at tables,” he said Friday.
Old Time Christmas will be Dec. 5 when the theater will host Epic Season, billed as a Christian rock group. On Dec. 7 and 8, the film Polar Express will play. During a scene in that movie when hot chocolate is served, it will also be distributed to Rialto viewers in their seats. Admission for that is one new, unwrapped toy.
Tartan Terrors, a Celtic group featuring bagpipes, drew a crowd of more than 220 people when they last played the Rialto. They’ll be back on Dec. 29.
“We’re trying; we listen to our customers. We’re fully handicapped accessible, and we’ve taken out seats to make an area for wheelchairs. We take credit cards, debit cards and we sell tickets in advance,” said Fuller.
The theater seats 296. It’ll be two years next month that Fuller and Cloutier, also of Lancaster, reopened the doors to the 80-year-old theater after buying the building at a bank auction for $160,000.
Fuller, who spent six years managing the Rialto for previous owners, is not exactly a one-man band when it comes to running the day-to-day operation these days, but it’s close.
“There’s myself and another person for all shows, but that person pretty much runs the concessions,” he said.
“We have a donation bucket and a comic book sale instead of a bake sale, which I’m not very good at,” he said.