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Franklin's Historic Artcraft Theatre makes changes due to COVID-19 during its busiest season

Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin suspends public showings of classic holiday films in pandemic
Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 07:40:11-05

FRANKLIN — It may seem like upcoming holiday season in the 2020 is something straight out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

After months of dealing with a global pandemic and various mandates and shutdowns, many you may be thinking, "Worse? How could things get any worse!"

With many beloved Christmas traditions already put on hold, Hoosiers and businesses are working to pivot in this pandemic.

For many families, a Johnson County historic site provides annual entertainment this time of year.

Unfortunately, the Historic Artcraft Theatre announced that due to coronavirus precautions, all holiday classic films are now on hold.

The theater which dates back to 1922, has been a center of attraction for many families over the years in downtown Franklin.

Located on Main Street, the marquee sits in the shadow of the country courthouse which during the holiday season is filled with lights and shoppers anticipating the Christmas season.

"We show older movies on 35mm film we try to give you a grand retro vibe," said Dave Windisch, director of marketing for Franklin Heritage and the Artcraft Theatre. "Just give you a couple of hours to shut the world off step back in time and just enjoy a movie."

Franklin Heritage acquired the space back in 2004 and since then, the 501(c)(3) has been working to restore the property.

The space is as classic and timeless as the movies it shows on the big screen, with nearly 615 seats spaced out inside.

During the Christmas season, the theater typically welcomes more than 12,000 guests during their holiday classic shows.

"You've got the lights happening on the courthouse, movies happening at the theater, people shopping and eating," Windisch said. "It's a wonderful, wonderful time. It really is, like it looks like "Back to the Future," ya know? Everybody sees "Back to the Future" and the courthouse and all the activity. It's what it looks like and feels like."

The theater provides an anchor on weekend nights for the downtown business district in Franklin, especially during the holidays.

Families start traditions of going to the classic theater to see their favorite holiday movies, and they also shop local at area businesses like Wild Geese Bookshop, Toodleydoo Toys and Brick Street Boutique. They mingle over drinks at Shale Creek, The Mint or Main and Madison and dine in at Greeks Pizzeria, RFD, The Willard, BoJaks or The Grill Bar.

The attendance at the theater brings in economic activity to this close-knit downtown community.

And so when word got out that the holidays classics were canceled this year, businesses reached out immediately offering their support and sharing on social media other ways to support the Historic Artcraft Theatre in this pandemic.

"I don't know of another community that has such a tight-knit business community as we do," Windisch said. "Because we know we can only succeed by the other people's success as well, so we all have to lift each other up."

In order to pay the mortgage, utility bills, and more, the theater is offering private showings of the films during the holiday season.

For a few hundred dollars, you can rent out the theater for 45 people. With space for more than 600 typically inside, there is plenty of room for that amount of people to enjoy a movie in a socially-distanced fashion.

There has been a lot of interest in the private showings so far, but they still have openings.

They are also opening up their concession stand to the public on weekend nights so you can grab Artcraft popcorn, root beer and candy to go.

They are also selling merchandise and gift cards, which could make great stocking stuffers if you are looking to shop local.

Their sister store, Madison Street Salvage remains open in the pandemic, which is also part of Franklin Heritage Inc.

Click here for more information on how to book a private screening of a holiday film or to donate and support The Historic Artcraft Theatre. To learn more about the work Franklin Heritage does in the community, visit