In the far southwest corner of Kansas, residents here who have frequented the new movie theater are educated on this year’s Oscars.

Elkhart’s Doric Theatre reopened in June – 35 years after it closed. The movies the single-screen has shown so far garnished a total 69 Academy Award nominations.

In fact, officials counted the totals twice, just to be sure. They highlighted all the nominated films they have shown in a short video clip.

“We played eight of the nine Best Picture movies,” said Brian Mitchell. “The only one I didn’t play was Moonlight.”

The theater’s reopening in the town of 2,100 is all thanks to Mitchell and his family, a local multi-generational farm family that diversified into the theater business more than a decade ago, purchasing stressed movie theaters and revitalizing them.

They began gutting the Doric in August 2015. The Mitchells now have 102 screens with the June opening of the Doric.

The goal is for the theater to be able to cover its expenses – and it is doing just that. People are coming from outside the county to see movies at the Doric, Mitchell said.

“We have people saying ‘we have seen more movies in the last six months than the last 10 years,’” he said.

The single-screen theater is considered a “weekender” – operating Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Film companies do not provide first-run products to weekenders, typically showing movies that have been released for two to four weeks.

But many are waiting to see those movies at the Doric, said Mitchell, noting they have screens in nearby Guymon, Oklahoma.

Also, along with weekenders, on Wednesdays and Thursdays he stepped outside the box for a small, rural setting – showing independent films, non-mainstream features typically shown at film festivals and more urban communities, not necessarily towns like Elkhart.

Among the independent films the Doric showed last year was “The Lobster” – a film with a plot centered around single people given 45 days to find a romantic partner or they are turned into animals. It is up for best original screenplay.

Among the other Oscar-nominated movies: “Captain Fantastic” (best actor); “Loving” (best actress); “Doctor Strange” (vision effects); “Deepwater Horizon” (best visual effects, best sound editing); “Moana” (animated feature film); “Florence Foster Jenkins” (best actress, best costume design) as well as several others.

Mitchell said he has shown best picture nominations “La La Land” and “Hidden Figures.” “Lion” opens this week.

He is pulling for “Hidden Figures.”

“Clearly La La Land has the momentum,” he said, but added, “That is what the Oscar surprise is all about.”

Mitchell said he already has another good lineup planned for this year. He attended the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago, watching 10 movies in three days and plans to bring some of those films to Elkhart.

Kansas Agland Editor Amy Bickel's agriculture roots started in Gypsum. She has been covering Kansas agriculture for more than 15 years. Email her with news, photos and other information at abickel@hutchnews.com or by calling (800) 766-3311 Ext. 320.

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