This week, one of Kilgore’s iconic theaters will mark 80 years downtown, and its longtime caretakers want to send it up in style.

On Friday, members of Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation – working with the City of Kilgore, Kilgore Main Street Program and other sponsors – will host a two-hour exhibit of locals’ memories and photos of the Crim, beginning at 3 p.m. June 21 next door to the theater, before cutting a birthday cake at 5 p.m. and screening “Only Angels Have Wings” across the street in the Texan Theater.

The 1939 film, starring Cary Grant, was the first movie ever shown in the theater following a grand opening that drew a number of local and visiting dignitaries at theater owner Liggett Crim’s invitation.

“It was the fourth theater Mr. Crim had built in Kilgore in 10 years,” according to KHPF veteran Sue Brown, who’s had a hand in numerous projects to preserve Kilgore’s downtown theaters. “I just know it was one of the most intriguing, historical movie houses ever built. There was the use of a sound system that was never used in East Texas. There was ‘refrigerated air.’ It did seat almost 1,000 people.”

Construction on the theater began in 1938 and, $150,000 later, it opened June 21, 1939.

“[The] new edifice is a tribute to the future of Kilgore as a metropolis,” said former Kilgore Mayor Roy H. Laird, quoted in “Kilgore: A Boom for the Ages.”

Brown has been scouring her files for the letters locals’ previously submitted to KHPF, capturing their memories of the Crim across decades. She’s eager for more, asking today’s residents to mail theirs to KHPF at P.O. Box 885 in Kilgore.

“We’d like to have them in our archives,” she said, and on display alongside historical and modern photographs during Friday’s exhibit.

Learn more about this week’s free birthday activities on Facebook via tinyurl.com/crimbirthday.

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