By Catherine Hosman
BERTRAM — When the historic Globe Theatre in Bertram closed its doors in 1982, it stood dormant for decades until Lance Regier and Zach Hamilton got the idea to return it to its original art deco splendor.
Friends since childhood, they purchased the theater in 2008. Now when they are not working at their day jobs, Regier in manufacturing and Hamilton in diesel engine development, they are at the theater renovating the building they hope to finish by the end of this summer.
Once completed, Hamilton said the theater will be a multi-use venue. On movie nights, theatergoers will enjoy classic movies from the silent era, such as Charlie Chaplin films with piano accompaniment, early talkies, John Wayne marathons and local independent films, all played on the original reel-to-reel projector.
“Our main focus is providing a social center for the community,” Regier said. “We have equipment to show 35mm films. Since most new movies are digital, and digital projectors are quite expensive, this limits us to classic film.”
Hamilton said they also want to present themed events to bring people and families out for a “full entertainment experience.”
“It will be a big draw for the local and surrounding communities who are looking for things to do,” he said.
Evan Milliorn, Bertram city secretary described the theater as “once the heart of the Bertram community.
“The Globe Theatre is a historical and cultural novelty being restored by two pioneers beyond their time,” he said. “Lance and Zach want to restore this crown jewel of a building and bring back a piece of history that played an integral role in Bertram. The workmanship and attention to detail that is going into this restoration is absolutely amazing.”
From schoolmates to business partners, Regier and Hamilton grew up in Liberty Hill, but went their separate ways for high school.
Regier graduated from Hilltop Baptist Academy in Cedar Park, and Hamilton from Liberty Hill High School.
“We’ve never not known each other,” Hamilton said. “We have similar interests and similar outlooks on life, but we each bring something unique to the relationship.”
Both are married and said they have the complete support of their families in their quest to bring the Globe Theatre back to life.
“I think they all see the value we bring to our families and the community by taking on this venture,” Regier said. “Hopefully our kids will keep the Globe alive in years to come.”
The theater originally opened in 1935 and had seen its share of celluloid evolution up to the time it closed in 1982. But the decades-long lack of use left the building in a serious state of disrepair. Time and weather had taken its toll on the roof and much of the equipment was not salvageable.
“Our first step was to save what little we could, which amounted to a few seats, the projectors and some sound equipment,” Regier said.
And after a little research, he and Hamilton found the original “GLOBE” sign in a goat barn on the outskirts of town.
“Knowing we had the original sign was pretty exciting,” he said.
They salvaged what they could then turned their attention to the building. But their efforts were not without drama. After cutting one board in the roof, Hamilton said “the entire roof collapsed saving thousands of dollars in demolition costs.”
“No one was hurt. I think God was looking out for us that day,” he said.
They replaced the roof and added an extension to the back of the theater for restrooms, since the original building didn’t have any. This took the pair two to three years to complete. Over the past year, Regier said they have “progressively worked on the inside rebuilding the stage, the ceiling, the balcony and now the projector room.
“The outside marquee and renovation of the original GLOBE sign will be the last task after installing seats,” he said.
Regier said Hamilton was the first to see the theater and take an interest in it.
“I had my eye on it since the 1990s but the seller wouldn’t commit,” Hamilton said.
All that changed in 2008 when the pair decided to approach the owner with their interest to buy the old theater. Regier said it was about that same time that the owner was ready to sell. There were numerous other interested parties, but most of them wanted to fill in the sloped floor and turn the theater into an average looking building.
They met with the theater’s previous owner, Tommy Knight, who interviewed them about their plans for renovation. After a successful interview where they “answered all the questions correctly and promised Knight he could run the projector, a deal was made.
“Tommy has a long history with the theater,” Hamilton said. “He ran projection, helping his older brother in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1970s he acquired the theater, as well as some drive-in theaters in Burnet and other places.”
Their vision is to stay true to the original look of the theater as possible.
“The door knobs, light fixtures, color scheme and seats will all be from the period of the 1930s and 1940s,” Hamilton said, adding that much of the interior was acquired through architectural salvage in Chicago and Bloomington, Ill.
To help with the effort, the Bertram Economic Development Corporation awarded them with a grant from the Façade Grant Program to assist them with the façade reconstruction of the theater. However, after years of planning and working on the project, Regier said their biggest, and possibly last hurdle, is purchasing the seats that will maintain the original look of the theater.
“We are searching for seats that are not only in good condition, but also have historical significance,” Regier said.
There are companies that refurbish and resell seats from older movie theaters that have either been torn down or are looking to upgrade, but Regier said prices vary on the condition and availability. Next month, the men will launch a fundraiser on kickstart.com to help raise funds to purchase seats. Donors will receive theater gifts based on amount and will range from free movie or event tickets to a name plaque on a seat.
“We hope the community views the Globe as a worthy cause and supports this effort,” Regier said.
For more information, and to see photos of the project’s progression, visit their Facebook page at Globe Theatre TX.