One of New Mexico Tech President Stephen Wells’ first goals when he arrived on campus was to revive the Loma Theater on Manzanares Street.
“That was something I put on my to-do list last year,” Wells said. “We’re getting really close.”
How close? Wells expects the theater to reopen in early fall.
“We’re doing an assessment of what it will take to get it back into shape,” Wells said.
Wells said New Mexico Tech has signed what he calls a “generous” five-year lease with First State Bank for the theater.
“We’re working on a sub-lease with a very reputable theater manager named Elmo Baca, who resides in Las Vegas, New Mexico,” Wells said. “He’s done theaters here. His latest is the Indigo Theater in Las Vegas which is about half the size of the Loma.”
According to its website, the Indigo Theater calls itself a “boutique,” a first-run movie theater and performing arts theater in a historic building. The theater seats about 50.
“He’s really excited about working with us to get the theater open for our students and our community,” Wells said.
The Loma’s auditorium seats about 200, First State Bank’s Holm Bursum III and Cuatro Bursum told The Chieftain last year.
Wells said the Loma will feature first-run movies. That was not the case when the Loma closed. It was running second-run movies because it was using a 35 millimeter projector and very few first-run movies were available on 35 millimeter film at the time. Now none are.
Todd Bloomhuff of Bloomhuff Theaters in Reno, Nevada, who managed the Loma at the time of its closing, wasn’t willing to make an investment in a digital projector according to a story by The Chieftain.
That is not the case with Tech, Wells said.
“Right now we’re waiting on the bid for the new digital projector,” Wells said. “When it (the theater) opens, we’ll be able to have first-run movies. We hope in the near future to have 3D capabilities as well.”
Wells said Tech is seeking a minimum of three bids.
“Tech is going to purchase the digital projector system,” Wells said. “If something goes astray, we can put it in our Macey Center.”
Wells said the plan is for the theater to be open Thursday through Sunday during the week for first-run movies, including matinees. The movies will be for the entire community.
The theater would be available Monday through Wednesday to Tech’s auxiliary services to utilize for the university and the community.
Wells said for events such as the Festival of the Cranes, the theater could be open to the public for movies the entire week.
“It could also be open for midnight showings of movies that appeal to students,” Wells said.
The City of Socorro is also involved in helping the theater re-open.
“The city is going to do what it can to help out,” Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker said.
Bhasker told The Chieftain the city is looking into offering a discount for city residents.
Bhasker suggested having events such as film festivals at the theater highlighting activities going on at Tech “like MythBusters.”
“Or they could have something like a UFO Festival,” Bhasker said.
He also suggested having dinner theater events involving businesses across the street from the theater such as Don Juan’s Cocina or It’s a Sweet Life Café.
The original Loma Theater opened in 1937 in a building on the Plaza.
The theater burned in 1956, and then relocated to its present location in the old Price-Lowenstein Mercantile building next to First State Bank in 1958 when the National Guard Armory located there moved to a facility on Highway 60 that is now owned by the City of Socorro for future use as a civic center.
Owner Les Dollison leased the former armory site, remodeling it extensively for use as a theater
In 1970, First State Bank bought the building from the state of New Mexico, and remodeled the Loma again in 1986, reducing the number of seats to reflect a trend of declining attendance resulting from the arrival of movies on tape and cable TV.
Part of the theater building was remodeled as office space for the bank.
The remodeling included new seating, lighting and work on the sound system. There are reclining seats in the back.