'Indescribable': Rives Theatre a huge loss to many in Martinsville

Theater destroyed by fire Sunday night

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – There was no shortage of people stopping by Rives Theatre Monday morning to look at the burned out building.

"In the '70s and '80s, a lot of people saw the 'Star Wars' movies. I saw every 'Star Wars' movie until we stopped showing first-run movies," Theater manager Rives Coleman said.

Some of the people who showed up at the theater Monday, reminiscing, perhaps, about the building's history, shown in black-and-white photos from local historian Desmond Kendrick.

The theater has been in manager Coleman's family since 1948.

"It has a lot of history to it. For the last 10 years, we've created our new history with the live performances here, as well with the music acts that have come through. It's unbelievable," Coleman said.

For Wayne Barnette, the news of the fire was gut-wrenching.

"It was the first place I went to see a movie at. I've been here several times," Barnette recalled.

The fire is a devastating blow for Bruce Berger's band.

The band was scheduled to play at the theater Friday, something he's been looking forward to for years.

"We could never get a date that they had open that we had open," Berger said. "It's not like we've never been canceled. Two years ago, we got canceled because of a roof cave-in in Myrtle Beach for a flood. So, we've been flooded out and now, unfortunately, we've been burned out."

Berger stopped by Monday to take photos.

"I have four kids and this is where I'd take them a lot. The theater had a quaintness to it," Berger said.

Martinsville Fire Chief Ted Anderson said determining a cause could take a while, but he does not believe there is anything suspicious.

"We'll also be working with the owner's insurance company, with their origin and cause investigators, because it may require some heavy equipment to take care of some of the layering that's in there. We're also, right now, waiting on the water to recede in the basement," Anderson explained.

Regardless of the cause, it's a loss that leaves Coleman at a loss for words.

"It's indescribable," Coleman said.

About the Author: