(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)


I’ve written about how much I love the movie Glory. And how, the first time I saw it, my friend and I arrived at the theater a few minutes late, slamming us into the action from the start. What I didn’t previously mention is that it was the America Theatre, one of Casper’s oldest, most historic, and frickin’ coolest places to catch a movie. 

Except it’s not anymore. Both the America and the Rialto are being shut down, stripped of all the inner workings that make a building a theatre, and sold off. 

I know that COVID really did a number on a lot of businesses, movie theatres in particular. But the America and Rialto theatres survived the Great Depression, World War II, the ever-present Wyoming boom and bust cycles…only to now have their projectors permanently silenced and their screens go dark forever.

These aren’t the first theatres Casper’s lost since I’ve lived here. The Beverly Plaza and Eastridge Mall theatres are gone, as well as the Fox and Iris (the latter two were both built and lost during my time as a Casperite). I miss them all, especially the downtown Fox and Iris, but none of these theatres have the historical significance the America and Rialto have earned. 

For me personally, I’ll always remember that first time watching Glory in the America. The bloody battle of Antietam was onscreen as we made our way down the darkened isle searching for seats…

YouTube video

I’m surprised we even found a place to sit, because all my attention was on that huge screen. And to this day I can’t tell you where we landed, because I was enthralled with the movie until long after the credits rolled. 

I went back to the America theatre four more times during the next week, because I just couldn’t get enough of this breathtaking movie. I only lived about five minutes away from the downtown theatres, if that. Once or twice, my cousin was with me, but I was fine going alone, too. And it was totally worth it to experience the best movie I’d ever seen in such a cool theatre as many times as I could before the next blockbuster took its place.

And there were always more blockbusters on the way. For years, the America was the go-to theatre for action-packed movies. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I chose the downtown theatres over the outliers, because they have so much more character. You’re not just going to a movie; you’re having a theatre-going experience. Like the experience(s) I had seeing Glory.

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy going to the Studio City Theatres. Going to any movie, really. And I’ll continue to go see flicks as long as there are theatres to see them in, cause let’s support going to the movies, people! But I’ll miss the downtown theatres. And I’m not the only one. Since the news of the theatres’ impending sale broke, I’ve both read and heard stories about people standing in line for this movie or that, or the first movie they ever saw at the America or Rialto, and many other reminiscences. I saw one comment that compared reading about the theatres’ demise to reading a friend’s obit. Sadly, that’s pretty accurate. Only, there’s no service or celebration of life planned for us to say goodbye. 

Oh well. Guess I’ll pop up some microwave popcorn, dim the lights, and re-watch Glory for the 30 millionth time (I’ll even start it during the epic battle scene). But you and I both know it just won’t be the same.