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Art House Cinema closes for remodeling, will reopen in summer in Billings

By David Jay,


BILLINGS - The Art House Cinema & Pub opened in 2015 in downtown Billings and has since become a staple of the arts and entertainment scene.

The theater showed its last film before closing to finish remodeling on Thursday night.

The plan is to reopen during the summer.

Art House patrons enjoyed "The Quiet Girl," an Irish film nominated for an Oscar in the international category.

The main theater will become a restaurant and Art House will have three theaters.

It's a transformation that began several years ago. The old Center Lanes Bowling Alley, which before that was a car dealership, has been demolished to make way for another phase of the Art House project.

"If we're doing a stage or if we're doing a poetry reading or some kind of other event where they want to use this stage, we can just push that screen back," said Matt Blakeslee, Art House founder and executive director.

Part of the back of the building will become home to the main theater with about 100 seats.

The old theater will be transformed into a restaurant with about 50 seats.

"The bar is going to stay the same," Blakeslee said. "We're going to keep these old historic terrazzo floors. These are from the showroom of the car dealership."

The three theaters together will host everything from plays and performances to shows on the big screen.

Those attending the final show at the old theater say Art House is special and they look forward to the new Art House.

"People come in, are very friendly, and you get to know them. You know, it just has an ambiance about it," said Judy Weddel, a volunteer since 2017.

"I'm glad that Billings has someplace downtown that can bring arts and culture," said Josh Gilchrist, an Art House customer.

"A warm and friendly place, so it's not just coming to see a movie," said Adela Awner, an Art House customer.

The original estimate of the project was $1.7 million and that's been reduced to $1.3 million with the help of volunteers doing the construction and good deals on materials.

"It's truly the community of Billings stepping up to say we want to be a part of this," Blakeslee said.

During the closure, Art House will continue to offer films at the Babcock Theater .

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