After being closed for more than a year, the Liberty Theatre in downtown Camas will re-open in March with a new operator, a new look and a new business plan.
A lease was signed with Rootstock Capital Management, LLC, on Wednesday. The corporation includes Rand Thornsley, who will be the managing director of the Liberty; Thornsley’s son Adam, an investor in the business; and Paul Rogers, who is a partner in Rogers Cinemas of Wisconsin.
Rand Thornsley said that when the Liberty re-opens, the two-screen facility will show second-run Hollywood movies, as well as international films and documentaries. There will also be film festival style programming including outdoor recreational and environmental film screenings. The cost for a general admission movie ticket at the Liberty will be $3.50.
“On most weeks, you’ll get a choice of at least two movies and sometimes more,” the theater’s new website states. “The Liberty will be showing films off of the national break, meaning that new films will show up at the Liberty three to seven weeks after they are released nationally. This means we don’t have to run the same film for several weeks on end to satisfy studio requirements, and can provide a wider variety of films for you to see.”
Thornsley, who has managed and owned small movie theaters — primarily in Alaska — for the past four decades, said re-opening plans for the Liberty include renovations and upgrade work to the historic building located at 315 N.E. Fourth Ave.
He explained that he hopes to create a unique destination for east Clark County residents — an “experience theater.”
“We are not going to do anything like anybody else,” Thornsley said. “We are going to do it our own way.”
Within six to 12 months a small food service kitchen with a limited menu, some seating and a take-out counter will be added. In addition, a remodel will be completed in the main theater’s balcony area, where patrons 21 and older will have food, beer and wine service available. There are also plans to remodel the seating area of the smaller second screen, and turn it into an “intimate theater.”
Thornsley said how fast each phase of the project moves along will depend on patron support.
“I’m optimistic based on what I’ve seen and heard so far that things are going to go well,” he said. “The more community support we get, the faster we will move along.”
Carrie Schulstad, owner of the Uncommon Gift in downtown Camas, said she is thrilled about future plans for the Liberty.
“Having the Liberty reopen will be huge for Camas,” said Schulstand, who is also vice president of the Downtown Camas Association. “It will attract more visitors downtown and on a more consistent basis. This will be great for all the businesses downtown, but also for the whole community.”
An open house and preview event is scheduled for March 4, as part of the monthly First Friday events held in downtown Camas. A grand opening celebration is set for Saturday, March, 19, in conjunction with a benefit event for Camas School District music programs.
“We intend to be very involved in the Camas and Washougal communities,” said Thornsley, who will be dividing his time over the next year between the Liberty and the Bear Tooth Theatrepub in Anchorage, Alaska, where he serves as the director of programming.
He said four part-time employees will be hired to work at the Liberty — two managers and two customer service personnel.
The Liberty Theatre building is owned by Gary and Marilyn Webberley of Kirkland, Wash. Negotiations on the lease have been underway for the past three months.
Prior to its closure on Sept. 7, 2009, the Liberty had been operated by Greg Wood since 1996. Wood currently owns The Roseway Theater in Portland.
The Liberty Theatre’s website is at www.camasliberty.com. On Facebook, search “Liberty Theatre of Camas-Washougal.”
This article was first published as a breaking news story on the Post-Record website on Saturday, Jan. 22. This article is also available in the Jan. 25 issue of the Post-Record print edition.