Coming soon: Movies at the Hyart

David Peck
The asbestos is gone, and the staff at the Hyart Theatre is preparing for the resumption of movies – but not quite yet.

The Hyart has been closed since a water leak on December 24 damaged the historic theater, and when sampling confirmed asbestos in the 70-year-old building, a process was begun to abate the asbestos.

Theater manager Wendy Roth said the crew from Safetech, Inc., of Billings completed the process of removing asbestos-containing textured ceiling material Thursday, about a half day earlier than expected, after completely sealing the theater lobby Monday and Tuesday. That abatement allowed Northern Industrial Hygiene to test for asbestos Thursday afternoon and declare the lobby asbestos free. Carpet was also removed from the lobby during the process.

Roth said the Safetech crew wetted down the textured ceiling so that asbestos fibers would not become airborne, then scraped the ceiling down to the plaster, gathered the material and placed it in bags for disposal.

As for the carpet, Roth said, while the carpet itself contained no asbestos, ceiling material had fallen onto the carpet during the water line break, making the likelihood of carpet contamination high. The insurance company gave the go-ahead to remove the carpet in the lobby, which was done by Safetech.

Northern Industrial Hygiene cleared the Hyart Thursday afternoon, Roth said, after using pumps to blow air around the lobby, then taking air samples for testing under a microscope. Had any fibers been found, the abatement would have been declared failed and clearance would not have been granted. Fortunately, the air samples tested clear.

Resuming shows

Roth said she and the Hyart Redevelopment Board are beginning to get people in to look at repairs, noting that a sample of the carpet has been taken by the insurance adjustor to work on a value. The first step, she said, is to carpet the ticket/storage office so that the concessions food and candy can be moved back
where they belong, including the storage shelves, paper goods and other items.

With that done, the hallways into the theater will be clear, and concessions counters, furniture and equipment will be moved back into place. Another issue is making the lobby safe, Roth said, noting that, with the carpet removed, there are trip hazards, and if there is wet weather outside, the bare concrete ramps to the restrooms and into the theater itself could become slippery. She said the Hyart Board
will consider rugs, runners and the like.

“We obviously want to be open as soon as possible,” Roth said. “I’m hoping for at least one weekend (of shows) in February.”

Looking ahead, Roth said the wool carpet with its custom design will be the most expensive item and will take time to procure. Currently, the lobby looks bare and
almost industrial, with no carpet and the drapes in front of the lounge/restroom area removed.

“The Hyart probably hasn’t looked like this since about 1950,” she said.

All of the light fixtures will need to be checked, since water was pouring through them in December, and a new coating will have to be applied to the ceiling. Water-stained walls will need to be cleaned, and in the days ahead the ice and popcorn machines will be fired up to make sure they still work.

In the meantime, if everything falls into place, Roth is hoping movies can resume soon.

“I’m hoping we can figure out the logistics and be open the following weekend (Feb. 24-25),”
she said.