The Superior Express -

UTE to open Labor Day weekend


August 13, 2020

Mankato is home to the Ute Theater which was originally named the Blair Theater in 1919. The name was changed by Jess DeLong in the 1950s. UTE is taken from the name of an Indian tribe.

Before it was remodeled in 2008, the Ute was decorated in an Indian motif. In 2008, volunteers from the community joined together to created the Ute campaign, which allowed the refinishing of the orginal seats. painting, remodeling and adding the black curtains on the wall.

In the past few years, business for the Ute has been pretty good. It is managed by members of the community who volunteer their time to keep the theater running. When asked how he thought business would be amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Thaddeus Hinkle said he thought it would be pretty good. The Ute showed The Raiders of the Lost Ark in July and had many attendees.

The plan for social distancing when the theater reopens is for the seats to be marked off in pairs. Hinkle said, “If we filled only half the seats, it would be a good night for us!”

Another safety precaution that will go into place is how attendees obtain their concessions. Instead of going into the concession area, the patrons will stand at a window leading into the area and place their orders there. Hinkle said there will probably be the same concessions as there always have been. The main difference inside of the concession part will be the glove wearing of the popcorn server.

If you have been on the Ute’s Facebook page, you may have noticed the request for older movies the community would like to see while waiting for new movies to be available. There has been a good response to this request with much of the community giving ideas.

Hinkle is the only person at the theater who has been involved in all of the changes made since 1984. He is the president of the commitee, but claims he is not the one who runs it. Janis McDill is in charge of booking the movies, Jill Klos takes care of the volunteers and Chris Klos does a lot of the maintence of the theater.

The Ute used to be a corporation, but when it turned to volunteers, it became a not for profit organization which is known as the Jewell County Cinema.

The Ute is planning to open on Labor Day weekend. However, there will be no new movies until four to six weeks after movies are released to other theaters on Aug. 12. The Ute is also available for special events such as birthday parties, special presentations and concerts.

Hinkle said the Jewell County Cinema organization is thankful for the volunteers and the community for their continued support even though the theater has not been open these past months.


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