Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The "reel" news from Burns, Oregon

The town of Burns, with less than 3,000 residents, has been in the headlines since January 2 when a group of self-styled militia occupied the headquarters of the nearby Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Burns' mayor Craig Lafollette says, "They are disrupting our lives, and we are ready for them to go home." But there's another story in Burns that deserves media attention, and here it is.

The 1940's era Desert Theatre is the only movie house within 100 miles of town, and the owner, "Tiny" Peterson, runs it at a loss so local kids will have something to do. He seldom sells more than 30 tickets to a show, which hardly pays the heating bill. But he knows most of the kids by name, and asks them about school or the sport they play. He covered the expense of the theatre from his salary working full-time in an auto repair shop until a few years ago, when Hollywood switched to digital projectors. His old projectors wouldn't work anymore, and you'll never believe what happened next. The whole town rallied behind him, raising $100,000 to buy him new digital equipment!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened at the Desert last weekend. But "for the kids" who may not have seen them, Tiny is also running the six previous Star Wars movies -- free of charge -- and that's the "reel" news from Burns, Oregon.

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