By Chris Caldwell
Everybody dreams. Some people envision themselves as firefighters; some hope that they will be veterinarians. Katherine Fritchie wanted to have her own business and for the last ten years has owned the Garland Theatre.
She was teaching in the Spokane Community Colleges' extended learning program when she spotted an ad in the Spokesman Review. Armed only with a degree in education from Eastern Washington University and her own determination, she purchased the theater from Don Clifton and set out on a long-range plan to remodel the inside.
"I believe in sustaining historical structures," she said with a resolute look. She does not want to mar anything on the outside of the building.
Fritchie wanted to enhance a family-friendly and clean environment already there and intently directed her attention to other parts of the theater for improvement. The seats were replaced and the floor recoated. Transitioning on this front was both difficult and pricey, she said. If she could go back to make a different redesigning decision, she gladly would have done so.
"I have thought about putting in two screens," Fritchie said. "But if I change anything, it would be in presentation."
Fritchie has filled the last 10 years with short-term design goals. As her tenth year rolls in and rolls out, she has new long-term goals to achieve for the Garland Theatre: becoming more energy efficient by using lower watt bulbs, insulating the attic and replacing the roof.
Fritchie also wants to update the concession stand. Tiled pillars reflect purple lights in the entryway, illuminating the floor in an exotic and dazzling display as customers come through the front doors. Popcorn crackles, the smell of butter fills the lobby and couples slide $5 across the counter of the snack bar.
"I really do like popcorn," Fritchie said with a smile as she pulled a small popcorn box out from under her desk. "I generally eat a few of these every time I come in."
With prices rising and job markets falling, entertainment is a necessary venue for release, Fritchie said. The Garland Theatre can offer entertainment for a lot of people who would not normally be able to afford it. That's why Fritchie says she tries to keep things balanced and affordable, but sometimes charging more for a bucket of popcorn is a necessary evil of the job.
"I was raised here. And now the Garland has those Saturday kid shows in the summer," said Mike Lukich, an employee at The Milk Bottle.
The Garland Theatre, however, remains an economically friendly hub within the Garland District. The vibrant neon sign casts a bright orange and teal glow over the street. The reader-board informs the frequent passerby of the three or four shows currently playing. Over the summers, the theater opens up its doors in the morning for kids to receive free showings of children's movies.
"We try and play all kinds of movies, like Madagascar," Fritchie said. "Even though we have to give up dollar Wednesdays in the summer, I think it is a good trade."
Business varies for the Garland Theatre. Sometimes the theatre has 350 people in the middle of the day and sometimes 17 patrons view a movie in the evening. The movie going population really depends on the show. Fritchie's average management day starts with dressing, feeding, and bussing her children off to school at 8:20 a.m. Then she either takes off for the theater or works from home. She books movies, talks to people who want to rent the theater, orders supplies, and makes certain that the theater is in the black.
Although Fritchie realizes that her dream is not always exciting, she believes her work is like an art form. She compares her owning a business to that of a writer. Sometimes writers are great at writing, she said, until they go to college. There, education may take away some of their creativity. Fritchie is proud of being able to make decisions from her gut rather than off of numbers and theory.
Options come, decisions go. Fritchie has made her fair share of choices.
"If I would have known that I was going to own a movie theatre, I would have studied business," Fritchie said. "But that is just life sometimes, you know? You never know what turns may come your way."