On July 15, 1948, Mr. Foster Lane, Williamsburg businessman who already
operated the Dixie Theater and served as a former mayor of the town,
posted the grand opening of the Lane Theater in response to the surge in
interest in the movies in prosperous post WWII America. According
to Betty Witt, one of Mr. Lane's daughters, the Dixie filled to capacity
at every showing and her father saw the need to expand. The July
15th edition of the Whitley Republican, in a front page spread on
the grand opening, states "The Lane has seating capacity, is thoroughly
fireproof, and has the best projection and sound equipment available. An
attractive ladies lounge, and a modern men's room have been provided for
the comfort and convenience of its patrons, along with air conditioning,
a sanitary drinking fountain and numerous other items designed to make
theater going a real pleasure. The Falls City Equipment Company of
Louisville installed the projection and sound equipment. It also
supplied the auditorium seats which incorporate the latest features in
comfort.... Another feature of the new theater will be the Dairy
Bar, owned and operated by Beech Grove Farm, specializing in sandwiches
and fountain service. The Dairy Bar will provide an ideal place
for that 'snack after the show.'"
Mr. Lane remained politically active and would host civic events and
political rallies at the Lane. He was known to proclaim, "It'll be
a big day at the Lane today!" A number of people traveling through
the state would attend cinemas at the Lane. Local visitors from
Corbin and London could hop the train for 15 cents and exit at the depot
right near the theater. Lines of moviegoers would often extend
from the theater back to the railroad tracks.
With the growth of TV, videos, and multiplex cinemas, the Lane could
not sustain a viable customer base. It closed its doors in the mid
1980's. For a brief period the building was utilized as a
courtroom by the Whitley County Court system before it was relegated to
its most recent function as a storage building for the city.
During the 90's it filled with old parking meters, dilapidated office
equipment, old records and the stuff that any garage or storage shed
would attract. The roof deteriorated to the point that over the
stage area you could see the sky and rain poured in. The entire
stage area rotted out. Thanks to someone with forethought, the red
auditorium seats were well covered with heavy black plastic, which did a
good job of preserving them. When members of the Action Team got
wind of a possible sale of the building, we geared up to save it from
becoming a future, admittedly much needed, parking space.
The city council agreed to our request that the Lane not be sold
until we could come up with a plan for purchasing it. Mayor
Nighbert and the council honored that request. Mother nature did
her part, or God stepped in to help out, with two strategically placed
wind storms that successively tore off one half, then the other half of
the roof. The city-held insurance picked up the major portion of
the cost for a new roof which, given the monsoon season we have had this
spring and summer, really saved the building from total destruction.
In 2001, the Action Team borrowed $50,000 from Town and Country Bank and
purchased the building from the city. Join us now and you are a
part-owner of the Lane! We are non-profit, so don't get your
sights set on big shareholder dividends. All profits to come will
be used to maintain the facility and further development on Main Street.
There are other rewards to owning this theater besides money!