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A Century of the Silver Screen | Beltonian Theatre entertains Central Texas for over 100 years

Founded in 1922, the historic theatre has been a staple of downtown Belton for over a century and is still finding ways to keep the movie magic alive.

BELTON, Texas — An iconic marquee still rises above downtown Belton.

Nestled between the historic Bell County Courthouse and Cochran Blair & Potts, the oldest department store in Texas, sits another piece of Bell County history, the Beltonian Theatre.

Founded in 1922, the theatre has been a staple of downtown Belton for over a century and is still finding ways to keep the movie magic alive.

Before the Beltonian would become the theatre it is today, the building served as a store for buggies, a crockery and finally a furniture store.

In 1922, the Belton Chamber of Commerce held a contest for residents to help name the new theatre, owned by Lee Walker. Out of more than 300 entries, the name The Beltonian was chosen, suggested by Miss Bernice Bible and Mrs. C.E. Metcalfe, and a Bell County icon was born.

Over the next few years, The Beltonian quickly became a hub of activity. In 1924, day-to-day operations were taken over by Furman L. Wolf, while Lee Walker remained as owner.

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The theatre has faced its share of hardships over the years, however, as current owner Zechariah Baker described.

A fire devastated the building in December 1926, causing around $10,000 in damages, the equivalent of over $170,000 today. 

By April 1927 though, The Beltonian was back on its feet and re-opened to the public.

The first "Talkies", were shown at the theatre in 1929, replacing the silent films that had come before.

A new front of blonde and green tile was installed in the 1950's, which can still be seen today both around the current stone facade on the front of the building and in the lobby.

With so many changes in the movie business over the past century, The Beltonian has found ways to evolve as well, witnessing the transition from silent films to talking pictures, black and white films to color and from film to digital.

The theatre closed its doors in the 1980s, after which the building was used to house a church, an antique store and even a pool hall.

In 2006, The Beltonian was purchased by Copperas Cove Theatre owners Johnny Ward and Brandon Sanders, who once again turned the building back into a theatre in 2008 through some extensive remodeling and a new dinner theatre concept.

The Beltonian closed down once more in 2013, before being purchased again in 2017 by Zechariah Baker, the theatre's current owner.

With competition from massive chain theaters and streaming services, The Beltonian has taken a different approach to the moviegoing experience, looking towards the future by turning to the past.

The Beltonian is now turning back the clock to feature big-screen favorites from years past, from classics like "Jaws" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" to more modern blockbusters such as the "Harry Potter" series.

"It's not just about the food, the popcorn or the drinks but also what they see and what they hear, and especially with the nostalgia of old movies kind of touching people," said Baker.

The theatre also offers a host of special events within its walls, from private rentals and screenings to musical and comedy performances to its famous haunted house.

"Anything that can be creative and supportive to families and have some entertainment is something that we're really looking to provide going forward," Baker said.

Even after 100 years, The Beltonian has remained a part of the community. Not only can you watch a piece of history, you can visit one.

So what exactly has the theatre meant to the city of Belton? Baker said it best.

"Putting some happiness in people's hearts," said Baker.

What's next for The Beltonian? Baker said within the next few years, renovations are planned to add a second screen, full kitchen, additional party rooms and even a rooftop bar.

"The Beltonian Theatre has meant so many things over the years to so many people," said Baker, "We look forward to honoring that tradition for another 100 years to come!"

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