After months of construction, the Art House Cinema and Pub had its grand reopening Thursday night, and now, the theater is ready for action. The event was open to the public to view the new space, and the theater will be officially open Friday for film showings.
Maggie Arbuckle has been a long-time fan and contributor to the Art House and even got to see her name up on the wall of donors at the grand reopening party.
“It’s delightful to see the Art House growing. When it started, my husband and I immediately thought, we love to support independent movie theater, so it's been a super nice opportunity for Billings to have a theater like this," says Arbuckle.
“I’m really excited to see this place open back up,” says Jack Klein, a fan of the Art House since it opened in 2018.
That was the overwhelming feeling at Thursday's preview night.
“The different sizes of theaters, different seating in different places, food on sight, the full pub that’s here now. It’s been a great gathering place, but now I think it’s going to be a fantastic gathering place," says Klein.
Darren Paulson is a volunteer for Art House and was happy to see the end result.
“When it first opened up, my wife and I started volunteering behind the bar and serving and cleaning up afterwards. And we even helped with the demolition, preparing it for the new phase 2. And so to see this house filled with people from the community is super exciting. I’m so thrilled for them," says Paulson.
The reopening has been a long time coming for founder and executive director Matt Blakeslee and his team.
“Eight years ago, we launched Art House Cinema, which was that small little theater, and that was always a beta test for this really grand, big vision we’ve always had to open this place," says Blakeslee.
The Art House originally was one room with 45 chairs, a screen, and a bar, but now the space has expanded to three separate theaters, a pub, and a restaurant.
The largest room, Theater 1, has 100 chairs and a screen that moves to reveal a stage. Theater 2 has 47 custom-made seats that are able to easily move to make room for events. The third theater can seat about 60 people.
A beloved Billings bowling alley, Center Lanes, used to occupy the space at 109 N. 30th St. before Art House bought it. Blakeslee and his team made sure to keep some of those elements alive after construction.
“These bar tops and in Theater 2 are actually bowling lanes from Center Lanes that one of our board members was able to rehab and were able to hang up. So, we’re so excited to carry that bowling alley tradition into this theater.”
After eight years, Blakeslee knows there's truly no place like home.
“There’s huge support here in members and donors and sponsors, and we’re so grateful for all of them because this truly is a community space. It’s not just me or a small team. It truly is Billings stepping up to see this happen,” says Blakeslee.
It's a space for downtown Billings to watch films, get a bite to eat, and get a sense of the community.
“I’m just delighted to be here. It’s exciting. And I’m coming here on Sunday with my girlfriends to see a movie now that it’s open,” says Arbuckle.
From bowling lanes to silver screens, The Art House will continue to be a place to gather for years to come.