TUNKHANNOCK — The Wyoming County Cultural Center at the Dietrich Theater has many reasons to celebrate a 15-year history since it reopened and reinvented itself on April 13, 2001.
In 1997 a grass roots effort begun by visionaries in Tunkhannock who believed that if the long closed movie theater could make a comeback, movie revenue could support arts and cultural programming for the community.
Now after 15 years as movie theater and a cultural center, the answer is a resounding “yes.” And throughout this year the Dietrich Theater plans to celebrate how far their dream has come.
In 2001, at the center of town at the junction of Route 29 and Route 6 stood a long-closed gas station and a slowly deteriorating one-screen theater that closed its doors in the 1980s. On the two downtown blocks of Tioga Street there were 13 empty storefronts. One of them was the town movie theater. Sandy Vieczorek, one of the original visionaries, remembers going door to door for donations to help bring the theater back to life.
Fifteen years later at the center of town at the junction of Route 29 and Route 6 is the Wyoming County Cultural Center with three galleries, two studios and a four screen Dietrich Movie Theater, set off by an inviting green space at the corner.
In the last 15 years the theater has reopened; built cultural, educational and film programming for over 90,000 children and adults per year; added the Dorothy G. Sheldon Art Studio, The Peg Fassett Performance Studio, and The William Knight Daniels Children’s Room; created three gallery spaces; presented four film festivals a year and it now employs 29 full time and part time employees, supported by board members and other volunteers.
During those 15 years despite weathering a flood, the Dietrich Theater has become an Anchor Building in Tunkhannock and Wyoming County and has also been designated an Educational Improvement Organization by the State of Pennsylvania.
The very first celebration was the My Big Fat Greek Wedding Night, the showing of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” The first “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was the Dietrich Theater’s best-selling film of all time in 2002, with sell-outs for weeks, even on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Get ready for more celebrations. There will be anniversary cake for all who attend a special movie event at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, the anniversary date which coincides with a movie event and the showing of one of the Spring Film Festival movies, “No Place on Earth,” that will be introduced by Chris Nicola, the cave explorer who filmed the cave that was a hiding place those escaping the Nazis during the Holocaust. All those who attend will have a chance to meet him and celebrate the Dietrich’s actual 15th anniversary at the same time.