ERWIN - The iconic Capitol Cinemas theater on Main Avenue in downtown Erwin has been shuttered for more than a year. But the parting sentiment expressed on the theater’s marque mirrors what appears to be widespread nostalgia for the long-running movie house.

On Wednesday, the RISE Erwin group of business owners and others who have spent the past five years bringing new life and a roster of family oriented activities to downtown area kicked off a social media survey of interest in theater's restoration as a larger entertainment venue for films, dramatic productions and musical performances.

By late Friday afternoon, the survey had received more than 25,000 views on Facebook and more than 800 people had completed its questionnaire.

RISE Erwin President Tyler Engle called it a phenomenal early response to a survey of support for the theater’s comeback that will remain online another 10 to 14 days. “That tells me that people want to see the Capitol succeed,” he said.

An introduction to the survey laments the closing of the theater, the darkening of it’s “familiar blinking lights celebrating the latest box office release" and the loss of the life the Capitol brought to downtown.

Comparing the darkened theater to “a time capsule, holding generations of nostalgic memories” that “sadly, our children will not be a part of,” the post goes on to pose the questions: 

- “Do we, as a community, feel the need to preserve this piece of history known as the Capitol Cinema? 

- “Can it be reimagined into another use?”

- Should we take on a long term, multi-million dollar project in an effort to save our history and give the next generation an opportunity to love this theater as much as we do?”

Finally the post asks RISE’s Facebook followers to take two minutes to complete the surveyand share it with their friends, explaining, “Based on the feedback from this survey, we will decide if moving forward with the next step of organized fundraising is feasible.”

Engle said the prospect of RISE taking on the theater’s rejuvenation began about eight months ago when he and the group’s founding president, Jamie Rice, sat down with the Capitol’s third generation owner Jan Bradley to discuss the possibilities. 

For Bradley, he said, the theater’s closing was like losing a family member. The message left on its marquee quotes Winnie Pooh’s reflection on such a parting, “I am so lucky to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

So with Bradley’s blessing, Engle said, RISE secured an engineering study that found the building in need of about $200,000 in structural repairs. Beyond that, he said the challenge will be getting the theater to the level of an appropriate entertainment venue for motion pictures, live dramatic productions and concerts.

For RISE, he said, the project will require "many years and many thousands of dollars to see through to the finish line."

“I think the survey is a dynamite idea to push us forward,” he said “We spearheaded the development of this survey and presented it not just to our membership and people who live here but to people everywhere. If someone in California has feelings about the Capitol and wants to help us we want them to tell us.

“We just really hope people will get involved, share their feelings with us and open their pocketbooks to help us. Whether that’s by a monetary donation, labor or in kind gifts, we want people to continue to respond and tell us how they can help us.”