Theater company is trying to bring historic theater in Hailey back to life

The Liberty Theater in Hailey is a historic and precious piece of the community. However, it’s doors have been shut for about two years. Now, a local theater co
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 11:19 AM MDT
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HAILEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —The Liberty Theater in Hailey is a historic and precious piece of the community. However, its doors have been shut for about two years. Now, a local theater company is trying to reopen the venue, and bring a vital part of the community back to life.

The Liberty Theater was built in the 1930s as a movie house, during the era of silent films. In the early 90s it was bought by Hollywood movie actors. A couple, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, then bought it, and restored the theater to be a performing arts venue.

“Then Company Fools came in 1996, and had been performing there until late 2020,” said Liberty Theater Company board president Claudia McCain.

In 2013 the theater company that occupied the space merged with the Sun Valley Museum of Arts. The theater was gifted the building by Moore and Willis in 2017, but then…

“Ultimately the Sun Valley Museum of Arts wanted to entirely focus on visual arts, not performing arts,” said Liberty Theater Company executive director JD McDonnell.

However, about two years ago the museum provided the opportunity to gift the building to the Liberty Theater Company. However, they first need to raise $2 million - $1.2 million in repairs alone.

“That consists of bracing for the roof. It consists of bracing for certain walls inside the building,” McDonnell said.

He said some of the money will also go toward theater operations and establishing an endowment for the theater for any future repairs that may be needed. The Relight The Liberty Theater campaign has seen tremendous support so far. Since March they have received $850,000 in donations and pledges. This includes a letter of support from Hailey Mayor Martha Burke, a $100,00 donation from the Rotary Club, and other anonymous donations.

Letter of support
Letter of support(SK)

“Their name(anonymous donors) will be in the lobby of this building when time is appropriate,” McDonnell said.

McCain said right now the Liberty Theater Company is a “floating” company, traveling to different theaters to perform. Additionally, she said they are looking forward to eventually having a place to call home at the Liberty Theater, and the opportunity to provide live theater to Hailey residents and visitors.

“It gives them a space for their heart. It gives them a space for thinking. It expands their views of the world,” McCain said.

McDonnell adds the reopening of the theater can be an economic stimulator for the community.

“Not only does the theater company benefit from it. The restaurants on Main Street benefit. The stores benefit,” McDonnell said.

The company members said there was real concern about what would happen to the Liberty Theater if they hadn’t not gotten involved.

“I think in any situation where you have a building that is single use, if that building is not being utilized for that single use it will be repurposed to something else that draws demand. Condominiums…who knows,” McDonnell said.

In the end, the company hopes to reach its fundraising deadline by the end of the year, and be open for the 2024 season.

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