BELTON, Texas — You just can't miss the giant marquee sign as you make your way towards downtown Belton, the red and white lettering and stone façade waves at you. Almost beckoning for your to peek through the darkened windows at lunch hour.
"Grandmothers, Great Grandmothers all have a story about something they saw at The Beltonian Theatre," Zechariah Baker told 6 News. "They'll mention a movie they saw as a kid or their experience at The Beltonian. I think because of generations of Beltonian's still live in the area, the nostalgia really pulls at people."
Baker knows a thing or two about the historical theatre on Central Avenue. He's owned it since 2017, one of many to leave their mark on a theatre that's withstood the test of time.
The Beltonian got it's name 100 years ago, May 10, 1922, when the Belton Chamber of Commerce declared a winner from more than 300 entries received to name the theatre in town.
"Over the years, The Beltonian has been a lot of things to a lot of different people, slight closures here and there and it's changed hands a few times," Baker explained. "You know what, though, it's always been there."
While the building wasn't new, before the theatre, various businesses called it home, including a store for buggies, a crockery and finally a furniture store before being rebranded as a theatre.
Once a theatre, The Beltonian became a busy place downtown. A fire in Dec 1926 devastated the building at a cost of $10,000; however, the theatre made a miraculous comeback, reopening in April 1927.
As all things do over time, the theatre needed a facelift by the 1950s and the owners replaced the 1920-style stucco front with blonde tile bordered in green that can still be seen, Baker said, around the edge of the stone façade that was added decades later in the 1980s.
"The more I looked into purchasing the theatre, the more I looked into the programming that worked and what didn't work here," Baker said. "Classic movies, rentals and a multi-use space with live events, concerts and comedy shows, that worked."
Baker also said that much like the history of The Beltonian, he wanted to be flexible in what was offered, in hopes to cater to everyone and continue to be a pillar for the City after buying it in 2017.
"At any given time I can choose to show whatever I want and if I was doing new movies then I would be set in a contract and not be able to be flexible for the community," he said.
The concept of The Beltonian is nothing new to Baker, who grew up in Marble Falls, about an hour and a half southeast of Belton.
"I grew up coming to a single screen theatre like this and I remember if I sat too high in the balcony, my head would hit the lights so I had to duck down," he said with a smile on his face. "The classic movies there I got to see when they first came out, it's stuff like that I remember."
Baker said it pulled at his heart when he saw The Beltonian was for sale and really helped to inspire him for everything that's ongoing at the theatre, especially for it's 100th Anniversary.
To celebrate the theatre's birth in Belton, there are a slew of events planned that Baker hopes people will come to and help him, and the city, celebrate.
- Tuesday, May 10, 11 a.m.: City of Belton Historical Marker Ceremony
- Friday, May 13, 6 p.m.: A Tribute to Sinatra! With Bruce Carbonara
- Saturday, May 14, 8 a.m.: Breakfast at The Beltonian Theatre with The Thunder Cats & Transformers
- Saturday, May 14, 6 p.m.: David Born is Robin Williams Comedy Show
- Sunday, May 15, 2 p.m.: FREE SCREENING of Lonesome Dove
Over the years, The Beltonian has ushered in new and innovative ideas and has found its place in a community that's growing with a promise, Baker said, to be here for the next 100 years.
"You know, I think there would be a big hole in the community without it," Baker said about the Beltonian. "I think the community really needs a place to gather and commiserate, be together and show their kids what it's like to enjoy classic things and classic movies."