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Curtain could close at Castle in April

The lease on The Castle Theatre will run out April 30. The future of the building isuncertain.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The Castle Theatre, the last of New Castle’s single-screen venues, has two more confirmed films before the current lease expires April 30.

A ‘For Lease’ sign is already hanging in the window along Main Street.

The Castle was run by Kerasotes Theatre for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Rick and Elaine Dearduff of Snapp Entertainment have leased the building since they reopened it in 2010. 

“We’ve enjoyed serving the community of New Castle and Henry County,” Elaine said. 

The Dearduffs live in Lebanon, Indiana. They also own a drive-in theater on Ind. 39. Elaine said they like running old theaters.

For the past eight years, the Dearduffs have made a three-hour round trip, six days a week, to bring cinematic entertainment to the area.

“I felt like I was invested in New Castle and Henry County,” Elaine said.

Near the end of 2013, the Dearduffs had to make the decision to upgrade their equipment or shut down.

With the help of the local community and online donors, The Castle Theatre got a new digital projector and was able to show the newest movies.

Elaine said she and Rick also tried buying the building outright when they upgraded the movie equipment.

Purchasing the movie theatre was not an option four years ago and is still not an option today.

According to county tax records, The Castle is owned by the Nellie Catherine Bundy Bailey Trust. The trust also owns the adjacent bridal shop and screenprinting business.

A plaque on the east wall of The Castle states that the building is dedicated to the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association, which is now the Riley Children’s Foundation.

Today, JP Morgan Chase Bank is the trustee of the Nellie Catherine Bundy Bailey Trust and that corner of New Castle.

After eight years of covering all building maintenance and heating/air conditioning repairs, the Dearduffs chose not to renew their lease.

“It doesn’t make good business sense to stay in the leased situation in New Castle,” Elaine said.

Matt Huffman, the F.C. Tucker/Crossroads agent handling The Castle lease, explained that the goal right now is to find a new tenant for the movie theater, rather than to try selling off portions of the Bailey Trust land.

The Castle used to host live stage performances. Over time, it adapted to the changing entertainment market and became a movie picture house.

The downtown theater has played a big role in a lot of local memories over the years.

New Castle resident Ina Upchurch remembers going to The Castle when the Chrysler plant had Christmas parties for the kids.

Kim Shelton Couch, from Straughn, remembers how grown up she felt going to see “Godzilla” by herself when it came to The Castle.

A lot of people got their first jobs working at The Castle. Many a first date and first kiss happened in the downtown theater, too.

Some Henry County residents offered suggestions for the space if it’s no longer going to show movies.

Roger Mogg thinks it would make a good blues music venue, like the one in Redkey.

Kathy Wert would like to see school dance recitals or plays up on the historic stage.

“There are things that can be done, but it would be a group effort,” Elaine Dearduff said.

Elaine thinks it might be a good opportunity for a local non-profit organization to show classic films or put on different types of events. She thinks that charity would need to actually own the building if they were going to be successful.

The current run of “Black Panther” ends Thursday night. “Tomb Raider” is scheduled to start Friday and will run for two weeks. After that, the movie “Ready Player One” will run until at least April 22.

For more information, visit castlenc.com or call 765-529-2400.