July 15, 2022
The Duttons are sad to announce that the Dutton Family Theater in Branson, Missouri will be closed for the next several weeks due to damages from a fire that occurred in the evening of July 13, 2022.
“We are unsure exactly how long the theater will be out of commission,” said CEO and Technical Director Timothy Dutton. “We are still investigating the extent of the damages and have had several people out to look at what needs to be done. Not even taking into account the actual fire damage, there is extensive water damage in the lobby and restrooms, and serious smoke damage throughout the building that needs to be addressed before we can even let our staff back inside. Our best guess at this point is that we will be out of commission for the next six to eight weeks.”
According to authorities at the scene, the fire started in a trash can situated under the porch on the east side of the theater. One theory is that the whole scenario started with a still smoldering cigarette, tossed into the receptacle. The trash caught fire and the flames quickly worked their way up the corner column to the crawl space, facade and roof of the theater.
Fortunately, the blaze was caught early and the Branson Fire Department was able to contain it quickly. According to their facebook post, the fire was determined to be accidental in nature and fire damage was contained to the front corner of the building and above the lobby ceiling. Smoke damage was noted throughout the structure.
“Right now, one of our biggest challenges is not having any electricity in the theater,” says Sheila Dutton, owner and manager. “The fire department did a wonderful job saving the building, which unfortunately means that a lot of water was used. The corner where the fire source was also happens to be the utility area where all of the electrical components, breakers and the like happen to be. As everyone knows, water and electricity don’t mix very well, and getting that area dried out and repaired is a top priority.”
The Duttons are recommending that individuals already holding tickets for their show visit their good friends across the street, the Hughes Brothers.
“We spoke with Hughes Brothers Theatre CEO Lena Hughes, and they made us the most beautiful offer,” said Judith Dutton, sales and box office manager. “Anyone holding a Dutton ticket can see one of the three Hughes-produced shows that they do not already have a ticket for. They can just take our tickets right across the street and see a great show that has our personal recommendation. Additionally, the Hughes Family is donating back to us the price of those tickets to help us cover our expenses and insurance deductible at this time.”
The good wishes and outreach from the Branson community hasn’t ended there.
“We have been overwhelmed with offers of help from so many of the amazing people in this town,” said Amy Dutton Arambulo, lead violinist and show production manager. “Several theater and show owners have offered time slots in their theaters, recommendations for experts in clean up and repairs, not to mention the multitude of people asking what they could do to help. The response has been overwhelming and honestly rather awe-inspiring.”
Whether The Duttons will take anyone up on any of those offers to perform in another theater during the repairs is still up in the air. Currently, they have no plans to move the show to another stage, but that could change in the coming weeks.
“Honestly, right now we just need to concentrate on getting things in order here,” said Timothy Dutton “The smoke went through the entire building, even the offices below the stage. Right now, the instruments, sound, lighting and video equipment are coated in ash, and the air inside is pretty toxic. We are still figuring out what can be cleaned, what still works and what will need to be replaced. Once we get that established we will be in a better place to make plans. All in all, we have so much to be grateful for. Since we were off this week, there was no one in the building at the time of the fire, so there were no injuries, and while the damage is pretty bad, we don’t believe it will be irreparable.”
“We will get through this. Don’t worry we’ll be back, probably sooner than later!” added Abigail Dutton Wright.
The All Hands on Deck Show, also performing at the Dutton Theater, will also be closed while the theater is under repair. Abby’s Tourist Trap and The Dutton Inn are undamaged and will continue to operate under their normal schedules. The Duttons suggested that anyone wanting to support them through this time, to please consider enjoying a dessert at Abby’s Tourist Trap and suggesting the Dutton Inn to visitors.