SHELBYVILLE, Ind.- Thieves targeted a historical theatre in downtown Shelbyville.

Beyond the bright lights, there is a lot of history and heart at The Strand Theatre.

“We are a community treasure that’s done entirely with volunteers,” said David Finkel, director of The Strand Theatre.

The theatre just started booking shows after being closed for two years due to COVID. There haven’t been as many shows and combined with a mild spring, the theatre wasn’t turning on the heat or air conditioning as often, until recently.

“When it finally got warm and we turned the air conditioning equipment on that’s when we discovered it had failed,” said Finkel.

It wasn’t broken. The HVAC equipment was installed in 2015. When theatre officials called a professional, they realized all seven units were empty. Someone stole the refrigerant out of all of them.

“They had to know what they were doing,” said Finkel.

Finkel says the thieves must have brought their own equipment. Also, the HVAC units weren’t in a side alley or behind the building, the thieves went up all the way up to the roof.

The thieves most likely cashing in on the stolen substance and it left the theatre with a $4,000 unexpected repair bill.  It hits hard especially as the theatre is still in recovery mode.

“It hurts tremendously. The fact that so many people have given so much of themselves to make this theater what it is and then to have someone basically steal from us. It’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow,” said Finkel.

In early spring, volunteers noticed someone tried to pry open a cover in the attic to get inside the theatre.  Thankfully, they didn’t get in.  Finkel thinks this break-in attempt is when the theft happened.

“(I’m) disappointed but not mad,” said Finkel.

Instead of being mad, their motto like all theatres: The show must go on.

Since the theft, there are now surveillance cameras installed on the roof and all around the theatre.

A police report was filed with the Shelbyville Police Department.