‘Cosmic Cat’ – Nebraskan realizes dream of his own film studio

Where is Cosmic Cat Studio?
The adventures of “Cosmic Cat” will be filmed in Lyons, Nebraska.

Coming soon to a You Tube channel near you, the intergalactic travels of “Cosmic Cat.” The planned internet series stars “Cosmic Cat” in a parody of the old television series “Lost in Space.”

The series – which will feature 15-minute episodes – is the brainchild of retired postal worker Bill Hedges. Hedges, a longtime fan of the 1960s show, created his own studio to film the series. Located inside a former movie theater, the Lyons, Neb., studio won’t challenge George Lucas’ LucasFilm or any of the major Hollywood studios. But, it’s the right size to achieve his dream.  Lyons – a town of about 700 people – is about 55 miles north of Omaha.

Scale-sized models occupy the theater where 322 people – myself included – could sit and watch first-run movies. The theater operated from 1947-85. When we lived in Oakland, I remember my dad driving my friends and me the seven miles to Lyons to watch movies, such as “MASH,” “Frogs,” “Willard” and “The Legend of Hell House.” Our former neighbor in Oakland owned the theater in its final years.

Cosmic Films
Scale-sized film props inside the old Lyons Theater.

Life-sized props, including a shell of the cat’s spaceship, Egyptian tombs and Roman columns, stand where the screen was located. They and the smaller models can be used interchangeably for episodes, Hedges said.

Things to do in Lyons, Nebraska
Bill Hedges stands near one of the ship’s sets.

A self-taught movie maker, Hedges recalls using an 8mm camera to Films movies as a youth – a gift from his dad. It beat investing in more expensive cameras.

“It was a lot more affordable,” he joked.

The original “Cosmic Cat” passed away earlier this year. He eventually bought a new black cat from the Humane Society and has been training it to take over the role. In the studio, several black stuffed cats sit on a chair, ready to be used as “stunt” doubles.

Hidden Gem in Nebraska
Just waiting for their call.

From projectionist to studio owner

How did Hedges come to convert the theater into a Films studio? When he retired as a postal service employee in Fremont a few years ago, he leaped at the chance to buy the abandoned building. He’s been a fan of movies – science fiction in particular – and TV since childhood. He worked at the theater as a teenager, spending weekends as a projectionist. I joked to him that he likely was the projectionist when I watched movies there.

A furniture store bought the building after the theater closed. The owner extended the store into the theater building. The auditorium’s slanted floor was leveled off and the lobby was removed for more space. Both buildings stood vacant after the store closed.

Unique attraction in Nebraska
Hedges restored the lobby to its former glory.

Hedges restored the lobby to its 1970s version. He uses it as an office and lobby. Postcards and “Cosmic Cat” souvenirs are located there. Old Films schedules (copies, as he keeps the original schedules at home). Movies such as “El Dorado” and “Georgy Girl” are listed on the poster. The posters are part of Hedge’s collection of the theater’s assets.

“I hated to lose anything associated with the theater,” he said.

A mannequin featuring a costume from the old NBC series “Quark” stands near the studio doors. Other memorabilia and movie posters are located about the theater.

Syfy in Nebraska
The outfit on the mannequin was used in a short-lived NBC series, “Quark,” starring Richard Benjamin. The outfit was worn by an actress better known during those days as one of the Wrigley Spearmint Gum twins.

Merle Hultman, the former owner, kept the film projectors when he closed the business in 1985. He gave them to Hedges after he bought the theater.  They sit in the room where the old projectionist worked back in the day.

Film Studio in Lyons, Nebraska
Hedges shares his memories of working on the projectors as a teen/

Cosmic Films Studio’s props required Hedges to build another set in the basement of his house. He plans to shoot interior ship scenes in the home studio. A panel on set was used as a prop on “Lost in Space,” Hedges said.

Dream movie cave

Hedges could open a new Lyons Theater in his basement. His personal theater includes seats from the original movie house. Blu-rays are stacked near a projector Hedges uses to watch old episodes of “Lost in Space” on the large screen. Movie posters hand on the wall of his lobby.

Lyons Theater
Inside Hedge’s home theater. The seats are from the Lyons Theater.

A 1960s-themed malt shop features a counter, stools and a jukebox that plays 45 rpm records. Hedges is living the dream of many retirees.

Bill Hedges of Cosmic Films
Bring back memories?

To top off his dream, Hedges stored the theater’s neon light stored in his garage. He hopes to hang it outside the theater again.

Bill Hedges in Lyons, Nebraska
The former theater’s neon sign may once again be featured at the theater, now a film studio.

Cosmic Films Studio doesn’t typically conduct tours, but if someone is interested, he’ll take the time, Hedges said. People have stopped in from as far away as England, Italy and Japan, he said. People recommended they stop by, so Hedges obliged.

For more information on Cosmic Cat’s adventures and Cosmic Films Studio, please visit www.cosmicfilmsstudio.com.