The Wyo Theater on Fifth Street has been donated to the Laramie Main Street Alliance, the economic development nonprofit announced Thursday.
The Wyo Theater was built in 1925 as the Crown Theater and remodeled in 1950 by Denver architect Charles Dunwoody Strong.
In the last five years, the theater has not been open to the public after being purchased by John Guthrie who, in 2014, earned notoriety when he was highly critical of other theaters and “the bastard ‘community’ of Laramie” as a whole.
While Guthrie and Main Street Alliance’s initial collaboration on revitalization efforts were publicized in November, Laramie Main Street Alliance Executive Director Trey Sherwood told the Laramie Boomerang that, now, “the donor wants to remain anonymous.”
About two years ago, Wyo Theater’s owner approached Laramie Main Street for assistance in possibly revitalizing the theater.
Main Street and Guthrie secured a $2,000 grant from the Wyoming Main Street Alliance, and that funding has been put to use on creating mixed-use vision for the building including reopening the balcony and the long-term potential for food service.
This year, Laramie Main Street has been working on a feasibility study regarding adding Americans with Disabilities Act compliant services, installing a fire suppression system and inspecting the electrical system.
That study is still ongoing, and Sherwood said her organization still needs to “dig deeper” into determining how much all of the needed renovations will cost.
Sherwood said it hasn’t been determined yet whether the nonprofit will seek to eventually sell the theater.
“There needs to be a new roof before anything happens,” Sherwood said. “It’s not the most glamorous part of historic preservation, but it’s the most important to make sure the building is safe and stable. … I hope people in Laramie get really excited about this project. If we’re not able to replace the roof, there won’t be a future use of the theater.”
Laramie Main Street plans to at least retain ownership of the building until the roof is replaced. That project is expected to cost $30,000-$35,000 and the Guthrie Family Foundation has donated $20,000 to help fund the replacement.
Laramie Main Street is currently working with Wattle & Daub Contractors to create visuals for a rehabilitation of the theater.
Sherwood has also consulted with Susan Aronstein, a University of Wyoming English professor whose work often focuses on cinema, on what services Wyo Theater has previously offered and what its future might entail.
Sherwood said she’s wanting to expand the number of advisors working on the project and encouraged the involvement of “anyone in this community who has a passion for the theater.”
“The Wyo Theater has been such an important part of the fabric of the Laramie community, and so many of us have happy memories of it,” Aronstein said in a Wednesday press release from Laramie Main Street. “We took our kids to $3 movies there and met friends at the Sunday night film series. Now we have an amazing opportunity to revitalize and reopen the Wyo. I am really looking forward to working with Main Street and our community to make this happen.”
Rob Harder, who owns the NU2U across the street from the Wyo Theater, also expressed excitement about Laramie Main Street’s acquisition of the property in the press release.
“We have had many community members ask us about the Wyo Theater since NU2U moved into the neighborhood,” he said. “I am very excited to use the resources we have to engage the community in a project that we know everyone will be very excited to see happen. ... Even before it had become public I cannot count the number of people that have said they would love to help out if a Wyo project were to come together.”
To make a tax deductible contribution to the “Save the Wyo” campaign for rehabilitation costs visit: https://laramiemainstreet.org/the-wyo-theater or mail a check to 115 Ivinson Avenue, Laramie, WY 82070 care of LMSA.
Laramie Main Street’s services are free to any property owner or business in the historic district, which stretches from Clark to Sheridan along First, Second and Third streets and runs down Ivinson and Grand avenues to the Ivinson Mansion and Albany County Courthouse.
During Guthrie’s ownership of the building, he and the WYO Theater were at the center of a controversy in 2014 surrounding the owner’s Facebook page, comments posted to Laramie Live’s Facebook page and lengthy posts on the theater’s website.
After he close the theater, the marquee often displayed cryptic messages, including saying that the business was closed by “hate threats and apathy.”