Ritz Theater - RDDA acquired the Ritz Theater in December 2012 by donation from Herb and Shannon Benzel. The facility had not been updated since the late 1980s and would have had to close unless converted to the new digital media required by movie studios. Conversion to digital media meant all new electrical and renovation of the auditorium meant gutting it for cleaning and repair. The community showed how much the theater meant by donating countless hours of work and dollars.
The theater was closed in July of 2013. A small stage was built in front of the screen and the theater opened with a live performance of the band Horse Crazy in March of 2014. DVD movies started showing in April 2014. The digital projector was purchased and up and running in September.
The Ritz Theater is one of two small, single screen, independent theaters still showing in Washington.
The theater shows a first run movies three times each week.
After extensive renovations by the RDDA here is the Ritz Theater pictured above in 2014.
Excerpt used with permission from the Ritzville Journal
April 4, 2013
Written by Stephen McFadden
"The theater was originally opened in 1937 and has been providing Ritzville and the surrounding area with big screen entertainment for decades.
There have been some time lapses when the doors were closed and movies weren’t playing on the weekends.
One local man stepped up to save the theater back in 1983. Farmer Herb Benzel, also known for his investment and support of Big Bend Bowl, purchased the theater at auction in October of 1983.
“I got it pretty reasonably,” he said. “There was no intention of making any money. I just wanted to see the theater keep going. It has been one of my projects to help keep the town alive.”
After purchasing the building, Benzel and his crew renovated the interior of the building, installing new carpet, repairing the seating and updating the sound system. Benzel’s most recent upgrade came a couple years ago when he installed a new movie screen.
Benzel took another major step on behalf of the theater in late 2012. He donated the building to the Ritzville Downtown Development Association (RDDA), a local nonprofit that works to promote and support the preservation of Ritzville’s designated historic downtown business district.
John Rankin, president of the RDDA, told the group last year that tackling the project was necessary in an effort to save it.
“There aren’t any grants really available for private owners,” he told the board. “If owned by a nonprofit it opens up a whole world. It would be a shame for it to close up and go away.”
Rankin’s desire to save and preserve the theater found unanimous support from the RDDA’s board members.
With that decision in place, Benzel moved forward with his plan to donate the building. Ownership officially transferred in December to the RDDA with the understanding the group must continue to operate it as a movie theater."
Since then, the funds for the digital projector were raised, the projector was installed and weekend movies have been shown regularly since 2014. In addition, the occasional concert has been held on stage in the theatre such as Country singer Jason Michael Carroll in 2018 with our local Ritzville Rock/Country/Blues Band the "Old Dogs" serving as the opening act.
Since then, additional renovations have continued to the roof, paint, sound system and entryway.
The theatre was forced to closed when the governor mandated the shutdown during the COVID outbreak in Spring of 2020.
It will re-open soon!
Sign above pictured in early 2013 as fundraising started for the renovations!