A Treasure of Main Street

By: Brianna Cleveland


      Embarking on its 40th anniversary this year is the Oster Regent Theatre, a great historical place located on Main Street in Cedar Falls, IA. This prominent theater has hosted audiences since 1910 and productions still take place today. The theatre was first named “Frank Cotton Theatre” in 1910 and was a performance theatre for the first 8 years of its life. With the development of movie technology, the theatre began to have less and less live productions. Movies were more cost effective than live performances and seemed to attract more people. 

      Mearl Blair bought the 70 seat theatre and turned it into a motion picture venue in 1918. It remained a movie theater for a little over 70 years. Knowing the motion picture venue was in need of repair, in 1989 the Blair family sold the building to the non-profit organization, The Cedar Falls Community Theatre according to the current manager, John C. Luzaich.

 

Figure #1 

Oster Regent Theatre advertising that it is the 40th anniversary for the people of main street. 

     

      The Cedar Falls Community Theatre staff raised $1.25 million to restore the building with the same color schemes before reopening in June of 1984. The theatre was renamed Oster Regent Theater in honor of Merel Oster, who donated the last $100,000 needed for the restoration. Fundraising efforts have begun again for further updates.   

Figure #2

Main lobby of the Oster Regent Theatre. 

Figure #3 Jack Brooks pictured on the left and John C. Luzaich say they are like family and that they have known eachother since Jack could talk.
Figure #3 Jack Brooks pictured on the left and John C. Luzaich say they are like family and that they have known eachother since Jack could talk.

      Now that the history of the beautiful Oscar regent is known, let's discuss what is going on in the present with the theatre. While interviewing John C. Luzaich a member and General Manager of the theatre for a little over 20 years, he informs us about the best qualities of the Oster Regent, past and present shows and where the theatre is going in the future. John says that the theatre currently has about 470 volunteers that come and go as they can. The board of directors for the theatre is compelled of 16 members. John says “I look at myself instead of the boss or at the top as the guy at the bottom that helps facilitate and helps everyone else really do all the work”. 

     

      The community is a year and a half into a 1.5 million dollar fundraising goal for The Cedar Falls Community Theatre. This goal is a 5 year goal but with already being 1 year into it the theatre has raised $1,275,000 already. Fundraising typically comes in from individuals, couples, local businesses and local foundations such as the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. John says that local Cedar Valley business owners have been great with donating and fundraising. 

 

Figure #4 

Inside the main auditorium area of Oster Regent Theatre located on Main Street in Cedar Falls, IA. 

Figure #5

A view of the seating levels in Oster Regent Theatre located on Main Street in Cedar Falls, IA. 


     

      Some of the best attended shows have been “Love Lost and what I Wore” which was a staged reading with 5 actors. Another best selling show at the theatre was MASH a non musical. “Some of the best attended shows are typically musicals around June or family friendly shows around Christmas time” says John. The theatre has produced “White Christmas” and one that John is very proud of was “Mary Poppins” because they brought in ZFX which is the #1 flying team in the world and they flew Mary Poppins across the stage. Many kids mouths dropped during the flying of Mary Poppins John said laughing. He also mentioned that something like that sticks with a kid for a long time and draws them into wanting to be involved in the theatre. 

Figure#6

Statue of Merle R. Blair former owner of the Oster Regent Theatre, located outside of the theatre on Main Street in Cedar Falls, IA. 

 

      In closing up the interview with asking John where he thinks the theatre is going in the future, John informs that the Oster Regent is more than just a theatre that provides shows for the public, it's a foundation for teaching and helping people discover what they want to do with being involved in the theatre. He says that fundraising project will continue into the future and that they will try to get younger people involved in the so the theatre can continue to grow and lay the groundwork. John hopes the fundraising campaign will continue to bring in talent and help enable youth to be interested in the theatre in the future. 

      “It's not that we had 250 people at the last show, it's more about performers, we provide them an opportunity for the them develop their opportunity and their passion and this is what we do hear at the Cedar Falls Community Theatre” 

Be sure to check out “A Christmas Carol” and “It's a Wonderful Life” coming this December!

Enjoy some more pictures below of the Oster Regent Theatre