The Campaign for the Playhouse, Redux:
It’s been about a year since the Playhouse went on the market, and there is still no buyer. Several parties have looked at it, and have some have made offers, but the seller, to our knowledge, hasn't recently accepted any offer. Our efforts to create a partnership with an outside buyer ultimately didn't work out.
We appreciate that the community is still passionate about the theater - it's wonderful to hear from so many neighbors who want to keep the movies alive in Larchmont!
If the community remains interested in reopening the theater as a non-profit (a model used by many small theaters saved by their local communities), we need to ramp up our fundraising efforts and we need more volunteers. This will only work if residents understand that the theater is vital as both a cultural and community center. And, as you already know, the Playhouse is also critical to rebuilding a rather forlorn-looking downtown area.
Here’s where things stand with the Playhouse:
We formed a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation last year so that donations will be tax deductible to the extent provided by law. We haven’t yet formed an official board of directors but have spoken to several community members with specific skills (such as work in the film, accounting and real estate industries) so that if the time comes, we will form a strong board to oversee management, finances and programming.
Regal Cinemas, which we thought posed a problem because of their so-called “right of first offer” that could have prevented us from showing first-run movies, seems willing to relinquish that right at no cost.
We have spoken to the sellers many times. We think they are unlikely to accept much less than $1.2 million (we have suggested that they accept less from the Larchmont non-profit and take the write-off as a tax deduction, but they haven’t budged yet). That being said, the sellers have stated their desire to work with us to ensure that the building remains a community amenity.
In addition to the purchase price, the building needs at least $250,000 in repairs (roof, pointing, remediating the water leak in the basement, etc.); $300,000 for new equipment; and an additional amount for sorely needed new seats, painting and carpeting.
All in, we think we need $2 million to get the theater up and running. We have a business plan derived from a few statistics from Bowtie Cinemas, the prior operator, as well as information from other non-profit theater owners.
It’s a steep price tag, to be sure, and because we have pledges for only $650,000, we have a long way to go. The Village of Larchmont is unable to contribute any funds and we’ve been told that we cannot get financing from a bank or the seller.
We think that there are some in the community who could step forward with leadership gifts of $100,000 or more -- it’s really the only way we can save the theater. A group of local patrons could make the reopening of the theater a reality (all donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.)
Please send us your thoughts and encourage your friends and neighbors to think creatively and generously about saving the theater.
Betsy Bradley and Ellen Zuckert
The Partnership for the Larchmont Playhouse