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Miles City family remodels historic Montana Theatre

Posted at 3:28 PM, Jun 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-22 17:28:49-04

MILES CITY - For nearly 90 years, the Montana Theatre has sat on Main Street in Miles City, but after closing during the COVID-19 pandemic it almost never reopened.

That was until John and Jennifer Goth became curious as to the theater's future after driving by the closed building for almost two years.

"We watched all of the theaters in the country opening up, and this theater did not," John Goff said. "So that's when we decided to give the owner a call."

When the owner expressed some hesitation to reopen, the Goffs jumped at the chance.

"We had driven by it and it was closed and the doors were chipped and not painted," Jennifer Goff said. "It just looked terrible and we decided somebody needs to do it. Then we just decided it should be us."

Original Montana Theatre

And so the family bought the historic theater, which first opened its doors in 1936. Once they were officially in charge, John said it was clear that it was ready for a remodel.

"Once we realized the industry, we realized that one screen wasn't going to make it anymore," Goff said. "So that's when we had to get creative."

The remodel was an extensive project. The couple worked to add two more screens to the theater and tried to preserve the historic decor. There were some technological advancements, but for the most part, they did their best to keep everything as close as possible to the original.

"All of the seats, all of the curtains, it's a labor of love," John Goff said. "A long year of labor of love."

New Screen

The Goffs, who both grew up in Miles City, opted to do most of the project by themselves. John said that the only job they had hired was installing electrical components. But he also said that the entire project wouldn't have been possible without the help of the community and their six children.

"We lived down here pretty much for a year," John said. "Our kids, family, friends, volunteers, anybody that wanted to give us a hand did. Anything we could get by not hiring out we did with volunteers and kids and family."

The Goffs kept the original blueprint and referred to it constantly during the building process. John said the oldest part of the theater, known as Theatre One, is the best example of their goal of not completely changing the theater's appearance.

"Theatre One, which is our biggest theater, is as original as we could keep it, but with time you have to modernize," Goff said. "So we have some new projectors and that sort of stuff."

Kids helping _2.2.1.jpg

Theatre One is a special place for John and Jennifer, as it was the location of their first date. Both said that it wasn't a part of the motivation behind becoming owners, though.

"That didn't come up until later," Jennifer said with a laugh. "Our main draw was the history of it."

Their history aside, the family has pulled off what they had hoped — bringing Hollywood hits back to their hometown.

"It's overwhelming when you think about it," Jennifer said. "I haven't been here for a few weeks, so I come in and it's like, man... I get emotional about it. We spent a lot of time here."

And John said he's happy they chose the project and thankful to live in such a supportive community.

"There were so many people who believed in our vision and got involved in the project and so that just means a lot," Goff said. "We really couldn't have done it without our community."