Dutton Theatre, damaged by fire, closing for several weeks | Entertainment

The Dutton Family Theater in Branson will be closed for the next several weeks due to damage sustained in a fire at the theater on Wednesday, July 13.

The fire started around 7:00 p.m. and is believed to have started from an outdoor trash can that was located under the front porch on the east side of the theater. While the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, a working theory is that a still smoldering cigarette may have been thrown into the container, causing the trash inside to ignite.

Flames from inside the trash can quickly made their way up the corner column of the theater before entering the crawl space, facade and roof of the building.

“We’re not sure exactly how long the theater will be out of commission,” CEO and technical director Timothy Dutton said. “We are still investigating the extent of the damage and have had several people out to see what needs to be done. Even without considering the actual fire damage, there is extensive water damage in the lobby and restrooms and severe smoke damage throughout the building that needs to be repaired before we can even let our staff back inside. Our best guess at this point is that we will be out of business for the next six to eight weeks.

The theater fire was determined to be accidental in nature and fire crews were able to contain the flames to the front corner of the building and above the lobby ceiling. However, smoke damage was noted to have made its way through the structure.

“Right now, one of our biggest challenges is not having electricity in the salon,” said owner and manager Sheila Dutton. “The fire department did a great job saving the building, which unfortunately meant a lot of water was used. The corner where the fire source was also happens to be the utility area where all the electrical components, circuit breakers and the like are located. As everyone knows, water and electricity don’t mix very well and drying out and repairing this area is a top priority.”

With all of The Duttons’ shows canceled for the foreseeable future due to the fire, the performing family is encouraging those who had planned to attend their show in the coming weeks to visit their friends across the street at The Hughes Brothers Theater instead.

“We spoke to Hughes Brothers Theater CEO Lena Hughes and they made us the most beautiful offer,” said sales and box office manager Judith Dutton. “Anyone with a Dutton ticket can see one of the three Hughes-produced shows they don’t already have a ticket for. They can just pick up our tickets right across the street and see a great show that has our personal recommendation. In addition, the Hughes family is donating the cost of these tickets back to us to help cover our expenses and insurance deductible at this time.”

In the days since the fire, the family said they’ve seen an incredible outpouring from the Branson community.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with offers of help from so many of the amazing people in this city,” said lead violinist and show production manager Amy Dutton Arambulo. “Several theater and show owners have offered time slots in their theaters, referrals for cleaning and repair experts, not to mention the multitude of people asking what they can do to help. The response has been overwhelming and frankly quite inspiring.”

As of now, The Duttons have said they have no plans to move the show to another stage or theater. However, those plans are subject to change as they continue to assess the situation in their theater.

“Honestly, right now we just have to concentrate on getting things right here,” Timothy Dutton said. “Smoke went through the entire building, even into the offices below the stage. The instruments, sound, lighting and video equipment are currently covered in ash and the air inside is quite toxic. We’re still figuring out what can be cleaned, what still works, and what will need to be replaced. Once we establish that, we’ll be in a better place to make plans. All in all, we have so much to be thankful for. As we were away this week, there was no one in the building at the time of the fire so no one was injured and although the damage is quite extensive we do not believe it will be irreparable.’

The show All Hands on Deck, which is also being performed at The Dutton Family Theatre, will also be closed while the theater undergoes renovations.

Dutton’s other properties, Abby’s Tourist Trap and The Dutton Inn, were unscathed during the fire and will continue to operate as normal. The family encourages anyone who would like to help support the family during this time to consider stopping by Abby’s Tourist Trap to enjoy dessert or to suggest The Dutton Inn to any visitor to Branson.

“We will get through this. Don’t worry, we’ll be back, probably sooner than later,” said Abigail Dutton Wright.

For the latest updates from The Duttons, visit their Facebook page or theduttons.com.

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