Source: The city of Miamisburg and www.plazatheatre.us
A Miamisburg group is focused on reopening a 96-year-old movie house closed for nearly five decades in an effort to help boost the city’s downtown.
The group is raising funds to reopen the Plaza Theatre on South Main Street on weekends, marketing it as a site showing classic movies in modern formats while providing more potential customers to the city’s downtown eateries, said Miamisburg businessman Doug Sorrell.
The group is about halfway in pledges and donations to raising $300,000, the amount necessary to renovate and reopen the theater, he said.
“There’s still a considerable amount of money we’re going to need to spend to open the theater,” he said. “But in many respects we have a lot of the things in place that are going to make it far less expensive than normal to open this theater, which we hope to do this summer.”
The theater originally opened on Christmas Day, 1919 and was a popular attraction through the decades before closing in late 1960s, according to the city.
Sorrell’s family operated a western shop in the building from November 1969 through 1993, when it sold the site. It has sat vacant since about 2002, he said.
Through the years, downtown Miamisburg has transitioned from an area populated by retail stores to a district with a variety of restaurants - TJ Chumps, Anticoli’s Giuliano Tavern, Ron’s Pizza and Bullwinkles Top Hat Bistro among them, Sorrell said.
The group is looking to make the Plaza “self-sustaining” and current owner Joe Harrison has offered it “an extremely favorable” lease rate, he said.
The group has been raising funds through the sale of $10,000 and $25,000 “Walk of Fame” plaques to be located outside the theater. Those donations and pledges can be made over five years, Sorrell said.
A number of organizations – which officials declined to name at this point – have pledged funds or donated lump sums. Those include “individuals who have businesses downtown, had businesses downtown or they’re just interested in getting the downtown more than what is it right now,” said Jeff Nestor, president of the Miamisburg Merchants Association.
The merchants’ group has given $25,000 to the project, Nestor said.
“They support it 100 percent,” he said. “It’s just something they want to get people coming back downtown.”
Donations are tax deductible and can be made to Downtown Miamisburg Inc., a 501c3 organization which has agreed to collect funds for the project, Sorrell said.
The group has developed a business plan and has worked with those who have operated and renovated theaters, Sorrell said.
The building’s interior will need to be heavily renovated and its concession area will need complete construction, said Miamisburg Development Director Chris Fine, who has been working with the group. But the theater’s roof, walls, floors, stage, and heating and air conditioning are in good condition, Sorrell said.
If the 250-seat theater reopens, admission will be “reasonably priced,” Sorrell said. The group is in discussions with an area company to underwrite admissions for the first two months, he said.
“That give us a little bit of cash flow,” Sorrell said. “It also gives everybody in the region the opportunity to see what we’re doing. And if we show them great product and they have a good experience, why wouldn’t they come back?”
Those interested in learning more about the project can visit www.plazatheatre.us or call Sorrell at 937-673-2440.