History: Abbotsford Theatre (1949 - 2009)

Contact:: Robert Lipprandt

Email: bob@wiclarkcountyhistory.org 

Surnames: Bender, Hodd, Leu, O’Brien 

----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, Clark Co., WI), Wednesday, October 1, 2009, Page 7 

Abby Theatre celebrated 60 years with free movie. By Kevin O’Brien 

For 60 uninterrupted years, the Abby Theatre has been providing Abbotsford and surrounding communities with low-cost family entertainment on a big screen.   

A a thank-you to their loyal customer base, the owners are offering free admission to Disney’s animated feature "Up" this weekend. Showings are at 2:15 and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:15 on Sunday.   

"It’s a long time to survive, so I think it’s time to do a free movie," said Allen Leu, who owns and operates the theater along with Sherri Leu and Kristy Bender.   

Robert and Cecil Hodd opened the Abby Theatre in 1949, and 47 years later, in 1996, the Leus purchased it and have kept it going ever since.  

Leu said they’ve been able to stay open all these years by people in and outside of Abbotsford who keep coming back for each new movie.  

"We’ve got loyal customers and that helps in a small town," he said.   

Abby Theatre doesn’t even try to compete with larger theaters that play first run movies in Marshfield and Wausau.   

Instead, the owners focus on G and PG rated movies that appeal to the entire family. And it helps that tickets only cost $5, compared to $7 or more at other theaters.   

"Where do you go for five bucks? Not very far these days," Leu said.   

A woman from Minnesota once told Leu that Abbotsford is very luck to still have a classic, low cost theater when so many others are disappearing.   

Indeed, the Abby Theatre is one attraction that distinguishes Abbotsford from the other small communities in the area. It offers another reason for people to come into the city and stop at restaurants and other businesses while they’re here, Leu noted.   

Born and raised in Colby, Leu started running projectors while he was still in high school in the late 1960’s. He worked at both the Abby Theatre and a drive-in just outside of town. Both has the same owners.   

"The theater, even when the drive-in was here, still did OK," he said, noting that theaters generally fare pretty well during tough economic times.   

Within a few years of taking over the theater, Leu installed a new digital surround-sound system wit 10 speakers and a new screen measuring 35 feet across and 10 feet tall. The theater has a total of 220 seats.   

"It isn’t the same as sitting at home," he said. "I get people in here who tell me that all the time.    

Another thing that adds to the cinematic experience is the well-stocked concession stand and popcorn machine, which brings a lot of people in the door.   

"It keeps the kids happy," he said’ "That’s all that we’re concerned about."   

The Abby Theatre is located at 216 N. First St. in Abbotsford. For more information, call 223-3812 or go to www.abbytheater.com 



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