Wheatland Cinema aims to give back to community and begins summer matinee program

Heather Ferguson and Curtis Hofrock opened Cinema West in April 2022 and have seen great community support and have worked to give back to the community in return. “We really wanted to figure out a way to give back, and that’s a passion for both of us, is giving back to our own community,” explained Ferguson on the importance of the theater to the community. Photo by Lydia Ellefsen

WHEATLAND – Heather Ferguson and Curtis Hofrock opened Cinema West in April 2022 and have since worked to give back to the community. The theater also just kicked off its summer matinee program.

Since its opening in 2022, the theater has been doing well. People are happy with the low prices. The theater is open regularly on Thursdays, Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. Movies show at the following times: 6:30 p.m. (Thursdays), 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays) and Sundays (6:30 p.m.).

The theater hosts birthday parties, family reunions and church and youth groups.

Movies can be sponsored. Businesses, for example, sponsor to have a movie shown on the theater’s off days when other movies are not playing. However, anyone can sponsor a movie, with the cost being the cost of the movie and how many people are attending to watch it.

The Cinema West is currently the only movie theater in Wheatland. It has been around since 1974 and was built after a group of people fundraised and the town matched the amount they raised. Seeing that the Cinema West’s previous owner was retiring, Ferguson called town council members and asked what would happen to the theater. She wrote a business plan for the theater and interviewed for the position. Between six to eight months later, they were given the theater and remodeled it.

Ferguson and Hofrock both run the theater as a side project. Ferguson works for the National Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), and Hofrock is the program director for Parks and Recreation.

“It was important for us to get it open for the youth because we both grew up here and spent a lot of time here. I wanted that opportunity for all of our kids,” said Ferguson.

“The community support’s been phenomenal,” said Hofrock.

Ferguson and Hofrock have also founds ways to give back to the Wheatland community. One of the ways they have done this is by donating to the First Flights for Kids program. First Flights for Kids is a local aviation program facilitated by local people with planes.

“I know we have several kids that have actually got their pilot’s license before they’ve got their diploma here in town,” said Ferguson of the impact the program has in the community.

Top Gun was a big seller in theaters, and Ferguson and Hofrock used the opportunity to raise money to support First Flights for Kids. They gathered collector tins to try to fundraise when Top Gun was showing in theaters. They donated back $7 from every bucket to First Flights for Kids program. Before Top Gun was released, they hosted a theme night, which raised a lot of money. Additionally, they held a raffle for Top Gun posters.

“We’ve raised quite a bit of money actually for that. The town has really stepped up and worked with us on that,” said Ferguson.

The money raised will help pay for T-shirts and the planes’ fuel. This year, Aug. 27, the program lets children to come out, look at their planes and talk to them about the program and what they can do. They also give children rides.

Wheatland Cinema has a special summer matinee program, which is 10 movies for 10 week this summer. A summer pass is $35 for children. The movies play at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Different movies are showing every week. The first movie was Trolls. Movies that will be playing this summer as part of the matinee program are Scoob!, Tom and Jerry, Clifford, Space Jam, The Boss Baby, Paw Patrol, Sing 2, The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Croods: New Age.

“It’s another option for kids in the summertime. It gets hot, and they don’t want to be out in the heat. I think it’s very beneficial. It gives them a place to be instead of out doing things that may not be so good for them,” said Hofrock of the summer matinee program.

The summer matinee program is modeled off of a program in Sidney, Nebraska.

“We really couldn’t have done everything that we did without John and Kim Phillips from Sidney. They donated stuff to us and made things happen that we didn’t know how it was going to work. They made it happen for us. It was huge for us. John’s been in the theater business for 30 plus years.

“They’ve been probably the one reason we have been successful,” said Ferguson.

“Supply chain is a huge issue for us right now,” remarked Hofrock. “Something as simple as a popcorn bag is almost impossible to get right now, but because we have a relationship with them and they have a relationship all over the theater industry, we’re able to get some of those things because we have those contacts.”

“Definitely this was something that God placed in our lap because we never would have thought to be in the position that we are now, and being able to do what we’ve done has totally been something we were blessed and obviously supposed to do for the town,” said Ferguson.

Summer matinee movies can also be sponsored. Additionally, there are advertising opportunities at the theater on-screen and in the lobby.