The new owner of the historic Antioch Theatre said he's racing against time to raise enough money to add needed digital equipment and make building renovations to reopen the business.
"I have until the end of the month to raise another $42,000," Tim Downey said. "If I don't have the funds, the project won't be moving forward."
The real estate closing on the 95-year-old building was the first week in July, making Downey the official new owner of the theater at 378 Lake St. However, he said that doesn't mean the renovation project is ready to begin.
"I own it, but I don't have the money to do the renovations," he said. "I don't think that I established that sense of urgency within the community."
The theater does not have the updated technology the film industry requires for the digital format, which is the new standard for distribution.
It currently is closed because the previous owner lost insurance for the building.
The improvements would include renovating the lobby, a new marquee and adding a 29-seat theater, which would alleviate the limitation of the number of movies the single-screen theater can show. He's planning about $750,000 in work.
The building was built in 1919 to house a live theater, and was converted to a movie house in 1924.
Downey said he is contributing $300,000 to the cost of buying the theater and renovations, along with a $200,000 village loan and money from sponsors. The goal is to raise $100,000 through a Kickstarter program and selling sidewalk stars, which both launched mid-June.
"I am getting more interest in the sidewalk stars than I thought," he said. "It's a way to immortalize support for the downtown."
The inch-and-a-half thick granite and gold sidewalk stars come in two sizes.
The goal for the sidewalk stars was $35,000, which Downey said has been met. He said he will continue to sell stars to reach the overall goal.
The Kickstarter program has generated $23,000 so far, and the deadline for raising the remaining $42,000 is July 31.
"We may go down to the wire here," Downey said. "It'll be so disappointing if it doesn't work out."
Mayor Lawrence Hanson said if Downey doesn't meet his goal, any money collected by the Kickerstarter program will be returned to donors.
Hanson said he cannot say right now if the village will be able to take further action to help the project. The village board has already approved a 75-cent-per-ticket tax that would help repay the village loan.
"The village can only do so much with taxpayer money," he said. "We already figured out how to give him this much."
State law requires the loan be paid back within 10 years, Village Administrator Jim Keim said.
"It is at crucial stages," Hanson said. "You'd hate to see a project that close not take off the ground. Hopefully the town rises to the occasion."
Downey said he has a mailer to be sent to about 7,000 households in Antioch to spread word of the time-sensitive life of the project.
"I think Antioch is a rare downtown. Theaters are like heartbeats -- they bring lots of life to a downtown all year round," he said. "You lose the theater, you lose the heartbeat."