History & Mission Statement
The Sun Theatre of Gothenburg has achieved a long-standing history as a connection to the arts in this charming central Nebraska community of approximately 3,900 residents. The theatre building was originally built and used as an opera house from 1909 to 1926. As the community changed with the times, the theatre was converted to a movie theatre by a gentleman named Glen VanWey. In 1927, children could enjoy a silent movie accompanied by a live orchestra for only 10 cents (adults were charged 20 cents). The 1930′s brought sound, Technicolor and controversy over allowing movies to be shown on Sundays. A public vote was narrowly approved allowing the showing of Sunday movies in town. When money was scarce during the depression, the theatre advertised an “egg night” where a dozen eggs valued at 6 cents was the price of movie admission. VanWey’s son Ernie continued the family business and operated the Sun Theatre as a full time cinema until 1981.
The Gothenburg Community Playhouse (a non-profit organization formed in 1968) purchased the theatre in 1983, the result of a successful fund drive to “save The Sun” from closing its doors to the public forever. Since that time, the theatre has thrived in its split-personality role by providing both live productions and cinema to the community. The cinema side of the business has continually provided first run movies 48+ weekends a year (Friday, Saturday, & Sunday) at the most affordable prices in the region. The playhouse side offers playhouse productions several times a year and strives to bring the community the highest quality of varied entertainment in the form of outside productions, talent shows, and live musical concerts.
The Gothenburg Community Playhouse continues to reinvest in its own future by upgrading its equipment and building. In recent years, it has completed large projects such as new dressing rooms, concession and lobby remodels, "Dolby" cinema surround sound system, exterior neon lighting, a new popcorn popper and more. The Sun Theatre continued to move forward with it’s "ultimate" entertainment goals by adding a new Barco digital projection system, new stage curtains and numerous acoustical and sound enhancements completed in 2012. Additional changes/updates that were completed in 2013 included an "ultra bright" cinema screen, new auditorum seats, refinished wood floors and new lobby & isle carpeting. In 2014-2015 scheduled projects include insullation, new heating & cooling system & installation of a restroom downstairs for actors & guest entertainers.
The Sun Theatre has remained self-supporting thorough the generosity of individual donations and general memberships, volunteerism, grants, and income derived from movies, concessions, live productions, and concerts. We do not receive any financial support from either taxes or any other government agency. As a non-profit we reinvest everything we receive back into the theatre. However, our continued success and longevity can only be attributed to the commitment of our outstanding community volunteers from both the past and present.
The Gothenburg Community Playhouse/Sun Theatre’s mission is to play a vital role in promoting an appreciation of fine arts and cinema in Central Nebraska, to provide diverse opportunities accessible to all, improve quality of life for Gothenburg and neighboring communities as a partner to local businesses and organizations, advocate education and voluntarism, and establish and sustain a safe and inviting gathering place for citizens of all ages to celebrate a shared quality and affordable theatre experience.
“You need three things in the theater - the play, the actors and the audience, - and each must give something”