Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More on The Save the Highland Theatre campaign

Here's an email just received on the latest status of The Highland Theatre:

Hello All,

It's been awhile since I've reported the status of the theater. Tim Kelley, Anthony Sterns and myself just returned from a two day seminar, in Play House Square. The League of Historic American Theatres presented the seminar Restoration to Operation: Leading a Historic Theatre’s Successful Transition We learned so much and are excited to share with you how and why this project will be successful. But, first let me get you up to speed.

We have accomplished a great deal. We have applied for our 501(c) (3) non-profit status, and have obtained our Employer Identification Number. We are in the process of finalizing a board of trustees and the bylaws for the corporation, and have been consulting with Lauren Pinney Burge, AIA (Historic Preservation Specialist, Architect), a principal of Chambers, Murphy & Burge Restoration Architects, Ltd. and Colleen Poehlman from the League of Historic American Theatres.

We have throughly researched the issues that have hindered urban neighborhood theaters’ commercial success. Urban flight has left city neighborhoods with a population possessing a lower disposable income, rising crime rates, and a lack of parking, while the “megaplexes” in the suburbs have kept patrons from coming to the classic movie theaters. However, the film distribution system has been the leading cause of the urban neighborhood theaters’ failure to compete. This scenario has led to the destruction of thousands of historic landmarks across the country. However, our research has found older theaters that have turned this trend around. We have contacted the owners and proprietors of these theaters to learn how they have been able to remain open and profitable. The answer is that nearly all of these theaters operate under a “community center” business model using their theaters for a wide variety of events and programming. This model has also enabled the theaters’ restoration, as it makes them eligible for funding from a variety of sources, and after restoration the theaters have attracted significantly more patrons. This “community center” business model has proven to be the savior of many historic theaters.

We have adopted this business model for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are eligibility for restoration funding and the security of a proven track record, and we feel confident that it holds the key to the future of the Highland Theater’s success. In addition, we have working with a national provider of digital cinema systems (the digital systems cost less than traditional film distribution), as well as a company that specializes in alternative energy systems which are so efficient the heating and cooling costs would be minimal. In the short term, we have a parking agreement with Oriana house and are currently working with the other businesses in Highland Square to produce a parking map. In the long term, we are investigating grants and low/no interest loans to help pay for a parking structure underneath the Portage Path School playground. The Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission also has programs available for parking.

Most recently, we have been finishing the business plan, the next step is to find a tax attorney and an accountant to help finalize the proposal. We feel certain that the Highland Theater can be both profitable in financial terms as well as socially and culturally invaluable in what it can offer to the men, women, and children of the community.

I know this is short notice, we've been so busy we haven't been able to catch up until now. We're planning a fund raiser and need your help. The Highland Square Theater Corporation would be honored if you were to be our guest at the Highland Square Reunion, An evening of sharing stories of our past with our hopes for the future. We'll invite the public to come for a wine and cheese reception to meet the Highland Square Alumni for in an informal family atmosphere. April 28, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. American Legion 783 W Market St. Akron, OH 44303. Space is limited so please Please RSVP to Lisa Bostwick via email lbostwick@neo.rr.com A $25.00 donation is suggested. You can also donate on line at www.savethehighland.com

Sincerely Yours,

Lisa Bostwick

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