Every town has those places that are well known by the people in the community and surrounding area. For Lexington (pop. 10,204), the Majestic Theatre is iconic. It has been there for 100 years, but in 2009, it fell upon rough times. The theatre was forced to close down, leaving the entire town frustrated and wondering what to do.
Among the frustrated, was a group of eighth-grade students who were determined to reopen the theatre. The students brought the community together and by June 2015, they were able to reopen to the public. Bringing the Majestic Theatre back to life was important to the community. Without it, the closest movie theatres were in Kearney (40 miles away), Hastings (86 miles away), and Grand Island (87 miles away). The students thought it was a waste of gas to drive that far to see a movie. The eighth-graders started by going to the school board, who agreed to purchase the theatre and its equipment for $75,000. This money was raised through annual lip-sync competitions and selling merchandise, such as shirts and pens, imprinted with the words, “I love LEX! One Community, One Theater. It’s MAJESTIC.”
The City of Lexington invested in renovations that included making the building handicap-accessible, a new roof, relocating restrooms in the lobby area, installing heating and air conditioning, electrical work, and a new projector and screen. Students volunteered for demolition and cleanup duties. Lexington High School students, enrolled in a Principles of Construction class, helped with framing and dry walling. Thanks to a $225,000 CDBG funding from DED, a $175,000 donation from the Sherwood Foundation, two awards from Dawson County Tourism, and effortless fundraising, they managed to fund more than $700,000 for the revitalization project.
The reopening of the theatre in June 2015 celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Majestic’s original opening in 1915. The once eighth-grade students, now graduates of Lexington High School, committed to this project all the way through their high school careers. “We never gave up. We saw the potential in it, and seeing it all now, it’s worth it. Five years is a long time to wait, but it’s worth it,” said Kevin Tobias, a Lexington High School graduate.
The theatre is now run by 15 families, part of a “cast and crew.” The families are trained in how to run the equipment and work with volunteers who help out on the weekends. The Majestic shows movies Friday and Saturday evenings, along with a matinee on Sunday afternoon. After five years, Lexington finally has its beloved theatre back.