When I pulled thru Lyons in October of 2016, I saw the population sign of 814 and didn’t expect a thriving film industry. The small main street reminded me of my childhood. Lyons once hosted a theater that was built in 1947 and had a 320 seat auditorium with two glass windowed balconies that served as cry rooms for parents with young children. The Lyons Theater was a vibrant gathering space until 1985 when it finally closed.
With its closing, the theater’s owner removed the projection room equipment and stored them in his garage in another town. With all its equipment removed, the theater was a shell of what it used to be, the place where Lyons residents could access the narrative and artistic creations from outside small town America. When the furniture store next door bought the space they expanded their showroom by leveling the sloping floor of the theater. Decades passed and soon Lyons forgot its center for cinema.
Enter Bill Hedges who worked in the Lyons Theater as a kid. After retiring from the post office, Bill purchased the building in 2014 to use as his own film studio. With his passion for his hometown he began restoring space as best he could. The original owner of the theater took notice of Bill’s ambition, and sold all of the original projectors and ephemera to Bill who then installed them over their original bolt patterns, the exact location where he operated them as a kid.
With so much of the floor plan altered and most equipment gone, Bill couldn’t revive it as a true theater. Instead he began constructing a cyclorama and studio sets for his own film production. A lifetime of tinkering and a zeal for sci-fi lead Bill to handcraft the sets and train his talented cat “Penny” for the humorous space odyssey “Cosmic Cat”. He’s now the proud owner and operator of “Cosmic Studios” in Lyons.
Across time and space, Bill shows us that a creative life does not have to be a straight path. Many creators self-inflict a daily grind competing against time to make their mark in 20s and 30s, but so many young creators lack the life experience to see the destiny in what they do. Bill didn’t spend a life in Hollywood. Instead, his life wound a wide curve bringing all of his life experiences as a projectionist and a craftsman to a unique destination after retirement. Bill’s path revealed itself in full circle, and he answered the call of his own cosmic journey.