For his next trick …

Buren Martin now owns the former movie theater where he ran projector as a teenager in the early 1960s.

Buren Martin now owns the former movie theater where he ran projector as a teenager in the early 1960s.

My friend Buren, the one who bought (for cash, as usual), renovated and now lives with his wife and two kids in the gymnasium where he played basketball as a child, just bought (for cash, as usual) the one-screen movie theater where he ran projector as a teenager. Of course he did. Why on Earth wouldn’t he?

When Buren found out that it would cost as much to install a sprinkler system in the part of the gym that he’s self-zoned non-residential as it would to buy the movie theater outright, the decision kind of made itself.  In about a year, therefore, the Inman Theater (some would say the historic Inman Theater) will open under new management. The former movie house-turned-wrestling-venue-turned-evangelical-church will add Home of The Baillie Players to its unlikely entertainment provenance.

A local theater group, The Peach Pit Players, failed as recently as last month to raise enough money to buy the place themselves, but Buren, friend of the artistic up-and-comer that he is, has offered to rent it to them for performances at a rate roughly equal to what they’d pay for a mid-priced hotel room. Not a hotel conference room. A hotel room.

The historic Inman Theater. Back in the bad old days, that little door on the corner was for

The historic Inman Theater. Back in the bad old days, that little door on the corner was for “coloreds only”. It led directly to the balcony.

Much assembly will be required before the first player, be he Peach Pit or Baillie, trods the new boards, however. Many truckloads of ruined seats, rotten wood and debris, even the “(image of Jesus) COMING ATTRACTION” sign that faced Market Street, have been removed already. Salvageable seat cushions will be reupholstered. Exterior walls sandblasted. Interior walls scraped and painted. Floors, as well. Wiring, HVAC, foyer, bathrooms, kitchen.

I asked Buren’s wife, Dottie, if she was as excited about all this as I am and she looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head. She’s fully half of what’s happening at the Inman, even though her new job as a public school drama teacher has taken her off the road. “Maybe in a year,” she said. Fair enough.