By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
The empty Red's Showcase Twin Cinemas presents a tempting option for Lighthouse Repertory Theatre, a Crescent City theater group that seeks a stage of its own.
The group has talked about buying the 5,500 square-foot building since the Thomas family closed the movie theater on Wednesday after a 20-year run that resulted in little profit.
"We're very interested, but we don't have any money," said Joan Buhler, president of the Lighthouse Repertory Theatre's board of directors that has discussed the idea at recent meetings.
The group would need to begin a capital campaign and may start seeking donations from area businesses and clubs to buy Red's.
Listed for $399,000, the commercially-zoned, G Street property includes two parcels a .22-acre piece with the theater and an adjoining 3,358 square-foot parking area.
"I've had a lot of inquiries on it," said Donna Zorn, a realtor with Ming Tree Real Estate.
So far, four of the seven inquiries came from local people, and Zorn planned to show the building to a possible buyer from Southern California on Thursday. Most interested parties have talked about continuing a theater in the structure, built in 1953. Zorn expects it to sell within three months.
The Lighthouse Repertory Theatre's vision call for expanding the structure's lobby to host intermission events and allow audience members to buy tickets and wait for rides inside. The group would build dressing rooms, a stage and orchestra pit. Plans also would include removing a middle wall that now separates the theater into two screening rooms and installing lights and sound equipment in the projection room.
Besides a purchase price and renovations, costs would include mortgage payments, operating expenses, utilities and taxes.
"That's a long way down the road," Buhler said ofthe plans.
Buhler expects that her group would need to raise its number of performances and sell more tickets. The group also could rent out the building to other groups and events for income.
The community theater group now uses Crescent Elk School's auditorium with its poor acoustic quality, hard seats and limited rehearsal time schedule.
Red's seats only 290 compared to Crescent Elk auditorium's 400. But having a separate theater would mean no longer needing to lock up equipment, props and materials that can now be damaged or stolen at the school. And Buhler likes the elevated seating that lets every audience member easily see the stage.
"Our own theater. Can you imagine?" Buhler said.
Such use may require plans for off-street parking and variances to expand or renovate the building, but the group's interest fits with plans to revitalize the downtown district, said to city planner Will Caplinger.
"It'd be perfect for a community theater building," Caplinger said. "It's built for that."
Caplinger aims to attract developers to build homes in the downtown section and a theater within walking distance offers a strong selling point. Theaters also boost other nearby businesses Glen's Bakery and Restaurant, for instance, that often served movie-goers before shows.
"It'd be a great use," Caplinger said of the theater group's interest in the building. "I wish I could throw a couple million bucks at it."