It is one of the most beloved pastimes in the United States. Loading the kids in the car, or picking up your date for the first time, grabbing a bite to eat, and then heading out to your local movie theater for a night of popcorn and entertainment.
But for one local resident, the movie theater experience is not a once in a while entertainment experience, it’s a labor of love.
Ucon native Kent Lott has been working in the theater industry since 1982, starting from the ground level as a projectionist and working his way up the ladder. He now owns several theaters in eastern Idaho, starting in 1993 with the Centre Theater in downtown Idaho Falls.
It is a laborious task staffing and maintaining these theaters, but Lott said it is one of passion.
“It’s just the day-to-day operation,” he said. “I’m trying to keep them clean and in working order. That’s always a challenge. We really have a great customer base here in Idaho Falls. So I think we do very well considering we’re against one of the big national chains. I think we hold our own pretty well.”
His latest project, however, might be the most ambitious of his career. Lott is working to revitalize an old building in downtown Blackfoot to create what he thinks will be one of the most innovative and unique theaters in the state.
“We’re wanting to call it the Blackfoot Movie Mill, and it’s out of an older industrial-looking building,” he said. “We think that will fall within the décor we’re wanting to go with. It should be fun.”
Five years after the closing of Blackfoot’s only movie theater, the Plaza Twin, Lott is looking revitalize the city’s theater culture with innovative technology seen in few area cinemas. The Movie Mill will feature 7.1 surround sound, an upgrade from the 5.1 surround sound heard in area theaters as well as a laser projector.
“I don’t know of any other place in the state that has (laser projectors),” Lott said. “They’re fairly new.”
Along with the industrial theme, the Blackfoot Movie Mill will also pay homage to the past, utilizing old signage from its predecessor the Plaza Twin.
“One of the funny things is that we bought all of the equipment out of the movie theater when it closed – The Plaza Twin – so a lot of the signage outside and in front that will go in this theater,” Lott said. “Some of the signage inside was old, so we’ll have that. It’ll just be fun to utilize some of those things.”
The Blackfoot Movie Mill came to fruition thanks to the support of the Blackfoot community. With no theaters in town, Lott saw an opportunity to attract residents who’ve grown accustomed to traveling to Pocatello or Idaho Falls for their big screen entertainment.
With the help of Blackfoot mayor Paul Loomis, the Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce and Blackfoot economic development coordinator Kurt Hibbert, Lott was able to gain local support for the purchase of this vacant downtown building.
“Those three have really worked hard to make this a reality,” he said.
Bingham County and the regional economic development organization REDI also were involved in making the plan happen.
Loomis, in a news release, described the effort as “a huge win for the city and the Blackfoot Urban Renewal Agency as it will be located right in the heart of the historic downtown revitalization area.”
Lott said much of the building has been vacant for several years although there had been a renter in the back. He intends to renovate it into a sevenplex.
Lott said the community has expressed a lot of support for the project.
“The response has been very overwhelming,” Lott said. “My phone really has rung off the hook, and there are tons of excitement on social media. It’s been good.”
Should construction remain on schedule, Lott anticipates opening the Blackfoot Movie Mill sometime this summer. For continued updates on the progress of the theater, visit the Blackfoot Movie Mill page on Facebook.
Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.