BRYANT, S.D. (KELO) — You don’t always have to travel to the closest big city for a night out at the movies.
Some small towns are also showing films in movie theaters of their own.
Linda Schlenker, her husband Ron, and their daughter Samantha of Hayti recently worked the concession stand at Bryant Cinema.
“It gets you out of the house. It keeps the movie theater running. It’s fun. You get to see lots of movies and meet lots of people,” Bryant Cinema volunteer Linda Schlenker said.
But nobody gets paid to keep the movies rolling at the small-town theater.
It’s run entirely by volunteers.
Jennifer Carstensen is the secretary of the volunteer board of directors.
“We have volunteers who come in as concession workers, ticket takers, even some people who will come in to help with some of the other little things that need to get taken care of,” Bryant Cinema board secretary Jennifer Carstensen said.
Stephanie Sauder also donates her time here, but recently she was settling in to watch Tom and Jerry with her nephew Bo.
“It’s a cute little place to come to,” Bryant Cinema volunteer Stephanie Sauder said.
The theater is more than 100 years old.
The Main Street staple became voluntee-runn in 1995.
It continues to attract audience members from Bryant and beyond.
“Willow Lake, De Smet, Lake Norden, Hayti, Clark, Lake Preston, all over the area is kind of a nice draw for us,” Carstensen said.
“We even get people from Watertown, Brookings, Huron, and all the surrounding communities,” Sauder said.
The cost for one ticket is just $4 for anyone 3 and older.
“You can bring the whole family with tickets and popcorn and pop, you know it’s still reasonable. It’s kind of nice to have that option,” Carstensen said.
The pandemic caused challenges for Byrant Cinema, including trying to get high-profile films on the local screen.
“Hollywood really–they’re concerned with crowd sizes as everyone is. They would like to get more people in the seats before they put out the big blockbusters and so they haven’t really been putting out movies that would appeal to our audience so we are hoping that soon they’ll be giving us more product to work with,” Carstensen said.
But this volunteer-run theater is slowly getting back into operation by showing movies every other weekend.
“Sometimes I think people just write small towns off. Like, ‘Oh, well you can drive to Watertown. You can drive to Brookings. Go and do those things there.’ But we love our small towns and we still want to have unique special places here and to be able to have a movie theater in a little town like Bryant, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s a pretty big deal for those of us who live around here, who bring our families here,” Cartensen said.
“A lot of small towns, the movie theaters have shut down and to have it here, it’s something to do. It’s a cheap way to see new releases, so it’s a good thing,” Schlenker said.
And many volunteers, including the Schlenker family, are making it happen.
Carstensen hopes more movies will become available so the theater can return to showing films every weekend.
The next movie playing at Bryant Cinema is “Raya and the Last Dragon” April 9th through the 11th.
Showtime is 7:00 pm.