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Wanted: A good home for theater seats

For those who have either grown up in Boulder City or are longtime residents, the Boulder City Theatre holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Whether it was seeing a movie as a child or as a family, for decades it was a popular place for entertainment. As the first air-conditioned building in Boulder City, the theater was popular among the workers at Hoover Dam. Local historians have often talked about workers buying more than one ticket to simply sit in the cool theater to escape the summer heat and maybe take a nap.

A piece of the theater’s past is now in the possession of Tara (Leon) Bertoli, the owner of the Boulder City Company Store. Thirty pieces to be exact. That being seats that are believed to be original to the theater, which was opened in 1932.

Bertoli said she was contacted by Ray Turner, president of the Boulder City History and Arts Foundation regarding the seats, which had been housed at the Boulder City Masonic Temple, across from the Parks and Recreation building. Because the seats were outside of the building, Bertoli and Turner were concerned that they could become weather damaged. So, time was of the essence.

“It was an urgent matter because we didn’t want them to be stolen or damaged,” Bertoli said. “They were sitting in the back of the Temple and were up for grabs.”

Turner said the Masons contacted him last year about the seats, saying they planned to remodel the interior of the building and they had no use for the chairs but didn’t want to see them thrown away.

“I said I’d try and find a home for them,” Turner said.

Thankfully, Bertoli had space in her storage unit. They didn’t know how the Masonic Temple came to be in possession of the seats but estimate they had been there for many years.

Blair Davenport, a board member of the BCHAF, said that nearly 40 years ago, the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley purchased more than 100 of the Boulder City Theatre seats. Those seats have since been refurbished are still in use.

Tiane Marie, the manager of the Boulder City Museum, said that while she could not find in their archives an interior photo of the theater from the time in which the seats are thought to have been in use, she did confirm they are original.

“The black cushions and arm rests are original, the back seats are not,” she said in an email after viewing photos of the seats in Bertoli’s possession. “We have those with the other half of the original theatre seats in our collection. We even have one of the armrests on display in the museum. The floral cushion back-rest material is not original. It used to be velvet red, which is what we have.”

When Bertoli first saw the seats, she said her reaction was, “Oh my God, these are the 1930s original movie theater seats. The goal in my eyes is to find an original picture of the theater of the aisle seats, which no one seems to be able to find. It’s not about who gets to keep them but I’d like to get them authenticated and put back into the theater as a memorial row.”

The aisle end caps of the row of seats have a very art-deco look to them, made of metal with built-in lighting under a few of the armrests to help guide people within a darkened theater. When Bertoli was asked what it’s like for her sitting in the seats, knowing their history and age, she said it allows her to take a step back in time.

“It’s very nostalgic, especially for people who care about the history of the town. It’s sentimental,” she said. “They’re very artistic, back in a time when people took a lot of pride in their work.”

Turner agreed and added, “You hear about these stories of the dam workers coming to watch a movie. I can imagine them slumped in the chair, enjoying the air conditioning.”

Anyone with information on the seats or an original family photo of the interior of the theater are asked to email Turner at bchistoryarts@gmail.com.

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