STERLING – As early as 9 a.m. Wednesday, people started lining up in front of the city annex to apply for jobs at the Sterling Theater.
Nick Frankfother was the first in a line of about 100 people. The Rock Falls High School graduate and current Sauk Valley Community College student didn’t want to get there too close to 10 a.m., which was the advertised time.
Skip Huston, who owns the downtown theater along with The Avon Theater in Decatur, said he’s looking to hire eight to 10 people, including a manager, assistant manager, ushers and concession stand workers, among other positions. The theater concept is a "brew and view" – patrons will be able to eat and drink while watching a movie.
He may have another day similar to Wednesday’s round of interviews, Huston said, if he doesn’t find what he’s looking for.
“I was not expecting this many people,” Frankfother said. “I was expecting (the line) to go just around the corner. I was pretty shocked.”
But by 9:45 a.m., the line stretched from the front door, around the northwest corner and again beyond the southwest corner. Some residents, after seeing the long line, didn’t bother staying to fill out an application.
Those who did wait in line filled out an application and had an initial interview at the annex. Some were sent down the block to the theater, for a one-on-one interview with Huston in a second-floor office.
Craig Kendrick, near the back of the line, arrived just a few minutes before 10 a.m. and was surprised by the number of people already waiting.
He said he had tutored schoolchildren part time during the school year, but was looking for something full time, with more stability. Despite the long line ahead of him, he tried to keep a positive attitude.
“It’s competition,” Kendrick said. “(You have) young, old, black and white. ... You have to have faith.”
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Illinois was 9.1 percent in May, above the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. However, the state added 11,800 private sector jobs in May, lowering the unemployment rate from 9.3 percent in April.
Dayton Hayes, a 2012 graduate of Sterling High School, is transferring to Sauk Valley Community College from Iowa Lakes Community College. And it was near Iowa Lakes that he said he almost got a job at another movie theater, so he decided to try again.
He sees a potential job at the Sterling Theater as a good start. Hayes said he has aspirations of owning a theater one day, and is interested in writing screenplays.
“We look for people who are invested in the whole thing and just don’t see it as a job,” Huston said, adding that he’s looking for customer service qualities over specific theater experience. “Today, we’re really kind of trying to see who’s out there. We were real pleased with the turnout.”
Construction crews are renovating the interior of the theater, and although Huston said he's hoping to open at the end of July, it likely will be later than that.
The Sterling Theater is looking for volunteers to help paint walls and trim, clean up the space and replace light bulbs, in addition to other smaller tasks.
Work will be done from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 1 and 2 at the theater at 402 Locust St.
Volunteers are encouraged to wearing painting clothes. Equipment will be provided, and they will be required to sign waivers.
Call 815-632-6621 for more information.