New owners plan to continue legacy of the Lake Theater

by Marianne Morf

Aaron Donaldson remembers visiting his aunt in Clear Lake each summer and doing three things: Going to eat at The Ritz, getting a treat at the Bakery, and going to a movie at the Lake Theater.

Two of those options aren’t possible anymore— Donaldson is determined the third will remain.

The Des Moines-turned-Clear Lake resident is now the new owner of the Lake Theater.  He purchased the building and business from Betty Sherman and her family, effective April 15.

Donaldson said he intends to keep the theater running in a “business as usual” manner.  That is welcome news to the Sherman family, which has run the business for 40 years.

“After 40 years a good offer came in and we accepted it,” said Bob Sherman, adding the time seemed right to sell.  “The fact that it will remain a theater is great.”

In preparation for the ownership transition, Donaldson spent time at the theater over the past few months, learning everything from the digital projection system to concession operations from the Shermans.  Bob and John, along with their brother Tom, all worked at the theater throughout their school days and into adulthood.

Betty Sherman says she clearly remembers the day back in the late 1970s, when Bob said he heard the theater was going to be sold by Central States and he thought his parents should buy it.

“We had just started a golf course here-- what did we know about a theater?” Betty told him.  A short while later Betty and her late husband, Gene, told the boys they had purchased the business.  In the decades to follow each member of the family was involved in the theater’s operations in a variety of ways.  Betty was typically stationed at the ticket window, welcoming film-goers.  Those like Donaldson, who have enjoyed the theater for years, also know Betty as a ‘mom-like’ figure who would remind kids to behave and keep their feet off the seats.

“We want the community to continue to count on the theater, as it has done for the last 40 years, and honor them (Shermans) and what they have done— build on

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