Burley Theater

burley, Idaho | C.1914

Photo Credit: Bailey O’Neile

What’s it like growing up in the Harris family household of Burley, Idaho? Well, you wouldn’t find any packaged popcorn to microwave for a late-night snack, that’s for certain. Chances are, your hands were already buttery from hangin’ around the Burley Theater earlier in the day.

The theater opened in 1914 as a vaudeville house and production stage. Six years later, Irvin Henry Harris, a railroad man, took over the one-room theater and it’s been in his family ever since, with fourth- and fifth-generation Harrises now collecting ticket stubs.

The Burley Theater may be a family tradition, but it’s also part of  community traditions. Not only is the theater the oldest in Idaho, much of it has been kept in its original condition. While its seats and projector have been upgraded to provide a contemporary viewing experience, the lighting and the facade are  both original–with minor touch-ups, of course. It’s also the only place in town you’ll find a $2 ticket price. That’s a tradition we can all support!

However, time hasn’t always been kind to this silver screen. A century of doing business comes with setbacks–and global pandemics. The theater has survived not one but two global pandemics. First, the Spanish Flu of 1915 shortly after it opened its doors, and more recently, COVID-19. During both periods, many theaters shuttered and Hollywood halted production, resulting in hard times for the Burley. But, sure enough, once it became safe to operate the Harrises flipped the projectors back on, and to this day continue to keep the big screen family dream alive.

Cinefiles that find themselves in Burley are sure to be entertained by a dynamic screening lineup that  features modern blockbusters as well as classics from the vault. If you do visit, make sure to say hi to the Harrisses–and enjoy your popcorn from the comfort of your historic seat.

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