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Movie theaters have long served as a strong source of entertainment, memories and nostalgia. For years, Neligh’s New Moon did just that for area residents.
Now a closed building that still graces the downtown Old Mill District, the New Moon theater is deeply ingrained in the history of Antelope County. Opened 110 years ago by J.C. Jenkins as the Moon Theater, New Moon adapted and weathered many changes in the movie and technological industries.
Jenkins built the theater as a stage theater, before motion pictures became popular. Fans often came to see the Clint and Besse Robbins Show in the winter. Jenkins’ daughter, Marjorie, entertained guests during intermission with her musical talents. The theater is considered the birthplace of Neligh’s school song, “Cheer For NHS,” as that was written by Marjorie herself.
Eventually, Jenkins sold the business to Marjorie’s then-husband, Walter Bradley. That is when the move to more modern entertainment began.
“He moved with the times,” said Marie Krohn in her chronicles, The History of Neligh, Nebraska: 1873-1998. “(He added) a wide screen, a multi-sound system and a new camera at the New (sic) Moon Theater.”
Bradley proved to be a pioneer of entertainment for Neligh as he also opened what is now TK/Starlite Drive-In shortly after.
In 1944, tragedy struck downtown Neligh in the form of a fire and the theater was not spared.
A fire, the most destructive one in Neligh’s history, took out a number of downtown businesses, including the theater. An explosion did the most damage to the theater, blowing out windows and launching the roof “ten feet into the air,” according to Krohn.
To the delight of local moviegoers, Bradley was able to rebuild and reopen the theater as the New Moon Theater. After his death, his son, Bill, took over and continued to run the theater until his death. At that time, the theater was set to close until a group of businessmen purchased the theater as New Moon Incorporated. They were able to keep the theater open as well as add a teen center, an extended stage and a meeting place.
The business changed hands over the years, most recently owned by Stacy Klabenes of Neligh. The theater closed its doors in 2014. At the time, the theater had DVDs available and was even a prime visiting spot for movie director Alexander Payne.
While the theater isn’t in operation at this time, that hasn’t stopped it from being an appealing sight among Neligh’s downtown skyline.