One of Louisiana’s oldest operating movie theaters, built in 1937, is up for sale – The Advocate

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The long-standing Queen Cinema in Eunice is up for sale.

Built in 1937, the 8,500-square-foot, three-screen theater at 231 W. Walnut St. is listed for $130,000. It is regarded as the state’s third-oldest movie theater still in operation. Only the Prytania Theater in New Orleans and the Fiske Theater in Oak Grove are older. 

Owner Doug Collins with Acadiana Cinemas said that while he knew he would sell his theaters one day, the pandemic forced the sale earlier than expected.

“It’s a small theater in a small town,” Collins said, “When you look at the lost revenue post-COVID, it doesn’t take much for a small business to be significantly impacted. That’s where the Queen is at right now.”

Collins bought the property in 2010. He also owns St. Landry Cinema in Opelousas, the Parkway Cinema in Natchitoches, and the Picayune Cinema 4 in Mississippi.

All three of his Louisiana theaters are currently for sale.

The Queen is not closing, at least not under Collins’ watch. He hopes to sell to a buyer who will keep the business in operation. If the properties do not sell, he plans to continue their operation for the foreseeable future.

On Saturday, the online listing indicated a deal is pending. 

The Queen was opened in 1937 by J. Claude Keller Jr. and his daughter, Rosemary. Keller was the son of the first movie theater operator in Eunice.

Describing the land as a vast prairie, J. Claude Keller Sr. and A.J. “Dutch” Wilfert created Eunice’s first theater, the Electric Theatre, in 1912.

The Queen Cinema was part of the younger Keller’s Liberty chain of theaters in the Eunice area.

The first Liberty theater was built in the 1920s. The Liberty Theatre closed in the 1980s due to the rise of larger movie theaters and at-home video, but was revitalized as a cultural center and site of the Rendezvous des Cajuns radio program.

In 1948, the Queen was damaged in a fire and rebuilt in the same year. Years later, Collins bought the Queen and completely renovated the property, replacing the curtains, chairs and carpets, and later converting all projectors to digital.

“The theater was in a state of disrepair,” he said. “I mean, it was in terrible condition.”

While Collins hopes the theater remains open, similar-sized theaters have struggled since the pandemic, when many were forced to close. From 2019 to 2022, the U.S. lost more than 2,000 movie theater screens amid quarantines and spacing restrictions.

Collins said theaters were also hurt by studios’ lack of output when the pandemic put all production to a halt. A strike by writers and actors in 2023 did not help.

Still, Collins remains positive. He predicts movie production and studio output this year will climb back to pre-pandemic levels.

Streaming services at home cannot kill the movie theater, he said. It is an experience that cannot be easily replicated.

“I would say it’s a two-hour vacation,” Collins said. “We can get out of our house and the busy day-to-day world and take a movie trip. I would tell you the business is still alive and well, but it’s been a long road of recovery.”

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