If the tale of the National Theatre and Graham Drive In was encapsulated into a movie, it would be marketed as an epic.
Scene 1: Introduce Pam and David Scott.
Pam Scott takes a break from her job at TXU Electric at the behest of her husband, David. Without telling Pam why, he leads her to an old, run down theater on Oak Street in Graham. Her curiosity is heightened.
The couple make their way inside the building owned by Jim Lamar. Though the couple had been toying with the idea of renovating the old theater, it didn’t begin to seem like a reality until this moment.
“We started looking for opportunities for us and for the Square to be revitalized, so to speak, and open a business,” says Pam Scott, who is now the owner. “Neither one of us knew a thing about movie theaters.”
Scene 2: Interior of the theater. The Scotts are about to make a life-changing decision.
“It was pretty overwhelming actually,” Pam says. “It was in really bad condition. Part of the ceiling had fallen in the auditorium; there was a lot of water damage and a lot of stench in the air; and lots of the seats had really shown their age from wear. It just needed a complete overhaul. There must have been a thousand pieces of gum on that floor in the auditorium.”
In addition to repairs, the movie equipment is in dire need of an upgrade. The previous projector had its film cooled by tubes of water during use. After much discussion, the Scotts decide to restore the old building.
Play late-1980s montage of Pam and David toiling away with workers eight hours a day. Eight months elapse as quick shots show the couple clearing out old trash, making repairs, restoring the seats and bringing in new equipment, fabric and ceiling tile.
Scene 3: The theater is about ready. Anticipation builds.
“It was fun,” Pam says. “People would just be walking by and stop in and tell us stories and get an overview of the project and look to see what progress we have made from the previous week. It was really entertaining. People would come in and say that (the theater is where) they had their first date, and that they proposed in the theater, and how they went as a small child and rolled Coke bottles (down the aisles).”
Enter a fellow theater jockey from Eastland, who teaches the Scotts how to run equipment and cut film among other tricks of the trade.
After months of hard work, Pam and David open the doors to the National Theatre in November 1990.
The films on the bill are “Milo and Otis” and “Mr. Destiny.” Initially, business booms. The building comes back to life and is again full of patrons.
Scene 4: An obstacle emerges.
Even though the restoration work is complete, the Scotts have their work cut out for them. They continue learning about the theater business, which has its ups and downs due to the seasons and school year.
Time passes, and the couple who together have five children at this point, juggle work and home life. In an effort to feature more films at once, the couple purchases the building now known as The Last Pizza Show, where they install an upstairs theater screen.
Eventually, the Scotts purchase the building next to them and split it all into three sections containing the theater’s party room, Marlene’s at The Big Chill and Pam’s Health and Nutrition Center. The theater now boasts three screens and runs like a well-oiled machine.
Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.