An old box of photo negatives leads to an unexpected discovery in Ottawa. The town's main street movie theatre could be the oldest continuously operating movie theatre in the world.
OTTAWA, KS (KCTV) -
An old box of photo negatives led to an unexpected discovery in Ottawa.
The town's Main Street movie theatre could be the oldest continuously operating movie theatre in the world.
The theatre has always had a special place in Ottawa. It sits in the heart of its downtown, and the memories created at the movies are lasting. But residents didn't even realize how special it was until a box of undeveloped pictures turned up.
"We were given a huge collection of negatives last year," Franklin County historian Deborah Barker.
More than 6,000 negatives gave a little snap shots of Ottawa's past. Many of them are centered around one building, now the Plaza Grill and Theatre.
"It has gone from being a nameless theatre to Bijou, to one called the Crystal, and then a big art deco remodel called the Plaza," Barker said.
Naturally, Barker wanted to know how far it dates back.
"I finally located some newspaper articles from a paper that was here in the building, a prohibitionist paper called the Ottawa Guardian," Barker said.
In them, the editor talks about a movie theatre that's opened in the same building.
"He is arguing to the town that this is something they should take part in," Barker said.
Those articles are dated 1905, meaning the theatre could be the oldest in the world, says Peach Modl, owner of Plaza Grill and Theatre.
"First, it was hard to believe. and then after a lot of research and reading and putting the dots together, it became very exciting," Modl said.
The discovery is offering new hope for the little Ottawa theatre. It hasn't been viable for years. The digital conversion was a financial drain for the owners who were considering closing.
"We have a mission now. We've been paddling through water, trying to stay afloat, minimize hours, just to be here. And now this has given us a mission, a forward movement to stay doing what we're doing," Modl said.
The Guinness Book of World Records shows the oldest cinema opened in Denmark in 1907.
The owner is trying to convert this theatre into a museum to preserve the theater's rich and colorful history.
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