Support This Sutton Music Festival

The Elk River Music and Arts Festival aims to raise funds for the Elk Theatre.


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Conan the Barbarian was one of the first movies Jerry Morris saw at the Elk Theatre in Sutton when he was seven years old. “The experience was amazing to me. The multiplex theaters don’t have the same personal feel to them. [The owners] Chuck and Jane [Murphy] always make you feel welcome. If they know you, you get a, ‘Hello,’ and a ‘How are you?’ If they don’t know you, they take the time to introduce themselves. It’s the same kind of feeling you get at an old downtown general store,” says Jerry, one of the organizers of the Elk River Music and Arts Festival.

More than 20 bands from Morgantown to Charleston will come together to try to save Braxton County’s only movie theater during the Elk River Music and Arts Festival, April 19 to 20, 2013, in Sutton. Three stages will host performers, including The Ultimatums, Pepper Fandango, False Pterodactyl, Haggard Wulf, Logan Venderlic, and more. The music festival is one of several fundraising efforts going on in Sutton to try to help raise money for the digital projector that the Elk Theatre needs to stay open. Originally built in the 1930s, the theater seats about 250 and currently shows new releases, classics, and West Virginia films on weekends using a 35mm film projector. With the film industry converting from 35mm to digital movie prints, the Elk Theatre is being forced to change the way it shows movies or go out of business. The cost to convert to digital is approximately $30,000.

Owners Chuck and Jane Murphy have strived to keep the theater open and keep costs affordable so all families can share in the movie-going experience. Since buying the theater in 2007, the Murphys have paid for all business costs with their day-job incomes. “Chuck and Jane have put a lot of their own time, money, and energy into keeping the theater open. Theaters like this are dying all over the country, being replaced by lifeless mall and stadium complexes. There is a place for that, but Sutton is a town that is defined by its individuality. If they lose a landmark like the theater, part of their identity is lost forever,” says Elk River Music and Arts Festival organizer Jarrod Ott.

When Jerry and Jarrod first started promoting the event and asking bands to perform, they received a pleasantly overwhelming response from local musicians. “For the first week or so, I would get a message almost daily from a band asking to be added to the lineup,” Jarrod says. “I’m really proud of our community of musicians in West Virginia for taking this on. I think they get why this event is fundamentally important to our state’s culture.”

To donate to the Elk Theater digital conversion fund, visit elktheatre.com. Tickets for the music festival are $10 for Friday only, $15 for Saturday only, or $20 for both days. Purchase concert tickets at elkriverrock.eventbrite.com.

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