Lamar Theatre Owners Retire After 29 Years of Dedicated Ownership

Bittersweet farewells were shared during Moonlight Madness on October 26 as the Lamar Theatre owners Tina and Rick Ross handed out candy, took pictures, and played their last movies “Paw Patrol” and “Hocus Pocus” before they begin retirement.  Their retirement marks the end of an era for both the theater and the community it has called home since 1946.

According to the theater website,,   the Atlas Theatre Corporation built the Lamar Theatre under Charles Yaeger. While he owned the theater, he became famous for creating “Bank Nights,” a once-weekly lottery drawing during the Depression.  Yaeger owned the theater until the 1970s when he passed away and his widow sold it.

In 1963, Rick’s mother and father purchased the Capitol Theater in Baca County when Rick was just 3 years old. Rick grew up in the business and over the years, he worked as a film buyer for his parents too.

The theater changed ownership three times before Rick and Tina Ross purchased it in December 1994.  The timing was perfect; the young couple was ready to become business owners. Although Rick and Tina were working in different fields, they were looking to purchase a theater and return where Rick started at such a young age.  “We wanted to get our own business,” said Rick. “There’s no business I know better than theaters.” Tina recalls this time stating, “We looked at a lot of theaters and this one worked out. We were meant to come back here.”

And so they began their illustrious career at the Lamar Theatre, becoming a source of nostalgia and a platform for showcasing a wide variety of films to the community.

They made many improvements and renovations over the 29 years, including installing a new roof, updating the sound system, automating the booth and installing a new projector, restoring the ticket booth, renovating the ceiling mural and marquee, and countless other improvements.

Because of the updates, patrons could comfortably enjoy the films that Rick carefully curated for the Lamar community. He knew his audience well from the countless years behind the scenes. The movies he brought to the screens and the memories he created will always be a part of the Lamar Theatre history.

The theater became a second home for Tina, Rick and their two daughters Anna and Abigail. Anna was just two when they purchased the theater, and later on became the theater greeter.  “My first memory at the theater was sitting on a stool eating M&Ms by the ticket counter, telling everyone ‘hi’,” Anna Morrow (Ross) said. “I sat with many people. Some I didn’t know because I thought everyone was my family since they came to ‘my theater’.”

For Abigail, she was born into the theater business and the family displayed her birth announcement on the marquee.  “The theater has always been such a big part of my life, it’s my second home,” said Abigail.  “Some of my best memories have been the last few years while I was in high school working at the theater.”  She said that now that she is in college, one of the things she misses from home is the theater. Although she is sad her parents won’t own the theater when she visits home, she is happy for her parents’ retirement.

For Rick, a multitude of wonderful memories exist, not one in particular sticking out. Fond memories Tina has of the theater include the free “Polar Express” matinee during the holidays and concession carry out during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It sounds crazy to say that about 2020, but I think it was really special and proved how supportive the community was,” Tina shared.

For Rick and Tina, the thing they will miss is also the same thing they won’t: the routine. The theater business is a seven-day-a-week, 365-days-a-year business with many behind-the-scene duties that people may not realize. Rick has always been the bookkeeper and the film buyer, picking countless movies for the community to enjoy. At times, they have been the janitor, popcorn popper and helped out where needed.  To Tina, she said that this feels like saying goodbye to a good friend. It is bittersweet for the entire family.

As news of Tina and Rick’s retirement spread, patrons and employees alike took to social media to share memories and express gratitude for their dedication.  “I am so grateful for every experience, every memory, every lesson learned, every dad joke, every laugh, every cry and every moment spent at the Lamar Theatre,” said employee Alayna Barnes.

Although many patrons, employees, and community members will miss Tina and Rick, it was good timing to start their retirement. “At some point, you realize you cannot do it forever,” Rick said recalling other theater owners working well into their 70s.  After retirement, Tina and Rick will stay around the community but with newly acquired freedom and be able to travel.

Although change is inevitable, the theater will continue to be a place of entertainment, connection, and cinematic wonder.  The Lamar Theatre is not closing its doors with Tina and Rick’s retirement; it will be passed on to new owners Monica Sutphin and Jeff Travis. Movies will resume on Nov 10.

After 29 years of changing the Lamar Theatre marquee, Rick changed it one last time to a message for the community.  It read “Thanks for the memories -Rick & Tina” but the Lamar community wants to thank YOU for your dedication, passion, and all the memories created. Enjoy retirement!

By Catt Reyes

Filed Under: EntertainmentFeaturedThe Arts


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