September 09, 2005:
The question on Highway 395, Main Street Lone Pine has changed from "When will they start the Museum?" to "Will it be finished in time for the Festival?" Mike Keith of M and L Keith Construction, overseeing the project's progress, still feels the building will be finished in time. However, a slight problem had cropped up.
The 10,500 square foot Butler Building, a gift from Beverly and Jim Rogers of Sunbelt Communications to the community of Lone Pine and Inyo County, as well as western film fans across the world, is awaiting one structural piece: the walls. Mr. Rogers fell in love with the Lone Pine Film Festival several years ago, supporting the expense of guests for a few years.
Then one Sunday after a Festival more than five years ago, he suggested, "How about we build a museum to preserve and celebrate this wonderful American film heritage." With his enthusiasm, the town rallied around. Now Lone Pine is in the final stages of completing the first stage of the project. The Rogers Building is a structurally complete building except there WERE no walls.
When the special walls, being manufactured in Nashville did not arrive, it became apparent immediately that something had gone wrong. Keith informed the Museum Board that the truck carrying the three walls for this building, along with walls for two others, lost the load from the truck trailer and all the walls were destroyed. The walls would need to be manufactured again and shipped west, a delay of three weeks.
When Mike called to check up on the walls progress, he was told to look out his office window in Victorville. The manufacturer had been encouraged to put a rush on them. The truck driver drove across the country to make a three weeks delay into a miraculous three days. The walls were there!
The fourth wall is the old western film façade with the forty-foot tower proclaiming "Film Museum" for all to see as they drive by. The sign with be soft pastel neon and two strips of neon will cross the façade to create the feeling so reminiscent of those western film theaters of the 1930's and 1940's.
After having been through so many challenges, the Board is philosophical about it. Chris Langley, Executive Director, remarked, "We have struggled through one challenge after another. We are lucky we have so many talented people dedicating time and money to the project. We feel bad when the delays could have been AVOIDED.
There will be a celebration October 6th at 4 pm at the site. "Like a Hollywood thriller, we don't know what will be there on that day. We haven't seen the last reel of the film to see how it comes out." It was will be an exciting time, with a Ceremony at four, a cocktail party following and a sit down dinner for Museum members. The guest speakers will include Paramount Producer A.C. Lyles, a Museum Board member, and William Wellman, Jr. Bill Wellman will present a preview of his book The First Best Picture being published in January which tells the story of his director father's early career including his work in Lone Pine. He will also focus on the creation of Wings, which was the first film to win a Best Film Oscar. The Museum Board invites all our neighbors to come and celebrate with us. Call 760-876-9103 for dinner tickets.
Most of all, it will be a celebration of friends and supporters and a pause before the final push to the grand opening in early 2006. Until then there will be a "soft" opening as the Board likes to call it. Visitors will be allowed in as the museum tests the 12 video viewing areas, brings the sixty seat movie house on line and fine tunes the exhibits.
Many local individuals and businesses have helped along the way. Removing the diseased trees from the lot and building the pad for the slab was a large task and Art Hickman and Dave Haas were instrumental in getting that done. Brian Webb, a member of the Museum Board has served as an architectural consultant and he has had the answers when the questions arose. Jaque Hickman has been instrumental in overseeing the project and working through the permits and engineering.
Some of the other locals who have given hours of volunteer time and shared their professional expertise include Ron Bursell, Jim Petropolis, Jan Larsen, Miller's Towing, Alan Butler, Vic Jackson and many more. "It has truly been a community project," Jaque Hickman remarked.
The Museum has begun an on-going fundraising project and several sponsors have stepped forward with major donations to continue the work of assembling a Museum from scratch, creating exhibits and adding to the collection of artifacts through acquisition.
Of course, Beverly and Jim Rogers pledge one million dollars to see the building to completion and the opening of the facility. The Dow Villa Motel is a Premier Sponsor, Kerry Powell an Associate Sponsor, Carole Freeman and Sharon McBryde Supporting sponsors. The Museum Film Buff Sponsors include Gardner's True Value, Hickman Construction, Lone Pine Drug and La Florista. The Hollywood Foreign Press contributed $9000 in the form of a grant to make the Wild West Movie Theater possible.