OPEN CURTAINS: Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft is looking forward to a big year.
OPEN CURTAINS: Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft is looking forward to a big year. Max Fleet BUN270714PAR4

Passion, love and life at the theatre

FOR many people a trip to the theatre ends with the curtain call, but for Merissa Craft (nee Ricciardi) and her family it's where they call home - and they love it.

While it wasn't their initial plan, Mrs Craft and her family have grown in the "special building" and have faith that this year will be the biggest yet.

With their home behind the big screen, Mrs Craft said her little boy and twins adored being able to live at a theatre, with the historic building the perfect stage for their imagination to run wild as they play in the Paragon.

This year marks five years since Mrs Craft reopened the Paragon Theatre and it's expected to be a big one.

Kicking off this year's line-up is one for all the Johnny and Baby fans, with a screening of Dirty Dancing.

Two buses are running from Bundaberg to Childers for the film.

And just like nobody put's Baby in the corner, Mrs Craft won't be stopping there. Lifting up the theatre experience, on Saturday, March 2 they will hold a special screening of Strictly Ballroom after the Starstruck exhibition opening at the Childers Art Space.

While the theatre has been recently opened by Mrs Craft, it's been a part of her family's history for a lot longer than that.

The Paragon has been in the Ricciardi family since the early '60s with Marietta & Carmelo (Charlie) Ricciardi running the theatre until 1998 when the last movie played.

In February 2007, Merissa Ricciardi and friend Thomas Griffiths purchased the property from Merissa's grandparents in order to keep it in the family and spent many years doing restorations. In October 2011, Nigel Craft purchased the theatre from Thomas and Merissa and Nigel moved back home to Bundaberg to be closer to the Paragon and plans to reopen began. A labour of love, Mrs Craft said the shows they host and movie screening events they run fit with the style she's passionate about.

"If I didn't enjoy it, what's the point of doing it," she said.

A one-woman-show behind the scenes organising the theatre side of the business, Mrs Craft said the events are often spaced out because the majority of their business comes from people outside of Childers and also the region.

They also provide private tour or film packages.

Mrs Craft recalled a time a couple from Maryborough made their way to the Paragon for a private screening of It's A Wonderful Life. The girlfriend had organised the whole trip as a surprise for her partner, which reduced him, his girlfriend and Mrs Craft to tears.

She said they also held weddings and private functions and this year were hoping to hold an Italian Film Festival in May with four or five films.

The first event for the year is on this weekend.

Dirty Dancing will be played at the Paragon on Saturday at 8pm (doors open 6.30pm for pre film fun). General admission is $15 and can be purchased via the website or from the espresso bar.

The espresso bar is open from 6.45am-5pm everyday. The Paragon is on 75 Churchill Street, Childers.

For more, visit www.paragontheatre.