The Grand Theatre in New London has new owners.
Jim and Kathy Billeck signed papers last Friday and took over operations the same day, with the help of Rogers Cinema CEO Scott Koran.
New London’s Rogers Cinema Manager, Ben Bruette, who had been with Rogers Cinemas for 12 years, was replaced by Billeck’s manager, Sydni Williams. She will be the face of the New London theatre.
Williams started working at movie theatres 12 years ago, at the age of 16, when she was employed at the Phillips, WI theatre. She went on help with the set up of a newly acquired Tomahawk theatre and to co-manage it.
“I’m really looking forward to managing this beautiful complex,” said Williams, who will be maintaining the present staff and hiring more as needed. Some of the employees have now gone off to college, as happens every year, and some replacements will be hired.
Owner Jim Billeck started running film at the Tomahawk Cinema in 1976. He bought his first theatre at Park Falls in 1996. It had been closed for 10 years, and was built in the 1950s. “The seats were rotten and so was the floor. The heating system was completely gone, so we had a lot of work to do to get it up and running again. The basement had two feet of solid ice in it when I walked through it,” recalled Billeck, with a look of accomplishment on his face. “But we got it back to a working theatre again.”
Billeck says he admires the work the Friends of the Grand organization did to the Grand Theatre here in New London and says he is proud to be the caretaker of such a gem. “All the work they did in the past and what they accomplished with Rogers was great. I want them to keep ownership of that,” said Billeck. He is looking forward to meeting all the Friends and shaking their hands.
Billeck also plans to have Williams work closely with the New London Chamber of Commerce and is happy to embrace Santa Land and any community events that could be held at the Grand throughout the year.
Billeck is a member of the National Association of Theatre Operators and is on the board of directors for the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan chapter. “We have scholarships available to employees who are graduating or going to college. I feel it’s important to give back to our employees any way we can, and this is a great opportunity for them to get some much needed cash for books or tuition, anything they may need to help them out in school.”
The management will honor Rogers Cinema gift cards for the next 45 days and urges those who have possession of one to come in and use their cards before they expire on Oct. 24, 2011.
They will also continue the annual customer appreciation days by showing free movies through Sept. 22, with a different group of movies appearing each week.
The Grand Cinema Theatres are on Facebook at Grand Cinema Theatres, on Twitter at GrandCinemaNL and located at 208 Wolf River Plaza, downtown New London. Call 920-982-5266.