MONTEVIDEO -- The Hollywood Theatre is where Ruth Ann and Jerry Lee first dated, and started their relationship now over 40 years strong.
Now the building is Hollywood on Main and Ruth Ann Lee is its new owner. She's looking to launch the former movie theater on a new and stronger relationship with the community as an entertainment center.
Ruth Ann Lee purchased the iconic downtown Montevideo theater building this fall. She is looking for community input on what kinds of events and activities people would like to see in the Hollywood.
She's tested the waters by hosting a variety of activities in the last couple of months, everything from a household auction to a music fest featuring local bands and talent.
She continues to book weddings, banquets and parties, but believes there may also be opportunities for a wider range of events. Theatrical performances, comedy shows, business workshops and expositions are among the ideas she's examining.
"I'm hoping to not get so many phone calls about what's showing,'' she said, laughing.
Yes, it remains hard to overcome its reputation as one of the region's best-known movie houses.
Opened in 1937 as a 711-seat, "ultra-modern" movie theater, the Hollywood continued to show movies until 1985. It was on the verge of demise when a group of local investors tossed in $1,000 each in 1998 to save it.
Downtown promoter and entrepreneur Jerry Ross took it from there, totally revamping its interior and converting it for use as an entertainment center. Ruth Ann Lee worked with Ross to market the Hollywood in the last couple of years. After his death one year ago at age 81, his widow, Evelyn, decided to put the building up for sale.
Lee has been working for much of the last decade helping people launch their own businesses as a co-founder, member of the board of directors and volunteer with the Entrepreneurial Assistance Network. This time, she decided it was her turn.
She purchased the building with a conviction that the facility has a future in the Montevideo economy. And, she admits, she was motivated with equal passion by a desire not to see such an important feature of the community's downtown go empty.
As an entertainment center, it can easily host banquets with 400 guests. But Lee said it is very adaptable for smaller gatherings as well. She has already booked its first fiesta de quinceañera for the coming year.
She is looking at remodeling the front lobby, adding a fireplace, and opening it separately for small parties or gatherings.
And of course, she will continue to sell advertising on the Hollywood's colorful marquee.
She's hoping most of all to see a long listing of upcoming events at Hollywood on Main featured in the bright lights of its marquee. She invites the public to offer their ideas.
Ideas can be offered on the Hollywood on Main LLC Facebook page, or by calling 320-841-0368.