The show will go on in Antioch as a campaign to raise funds for digital equipment exceeded expectations and has enabled a $750,000 renovation of an old movie house downtown to proceed.
The "Go Digital or Go Dark" online fundraiser netted about $83,000, well beyond the $65,000 target, Antioch Theatre owner Tim Downey said. The extra money will allow for a 3-D projector to be included in the package of equipment needed to secure new-release movies.
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"All the distributors are going to digital," said Downey, who owns another building downtown and for about a year has been pursuing plans to redevelop the nearly century-old theater at 378 Lake St.
The theater has been in disrepair and closed in mid-May. Downey closed on the building July 3, and had set July 31 as the deadline to raise enough money to pay for the equipment or gut the plan.
"We started demolition on Tuesday morning even before the campaign was completed. We're going to work as hard as we can to get it open by the end of the year," he said.
Downey said he has seen many movie theaters close in other communities and was humbled by the public support in Antioch.
"I know how important theaters are, I call them the heartbeat of downtown. The community really does love the downtown and loves this theater," he added.
The building opened in 1919 as a live performance venue and was converted to a movie theater in 1924.
New seats, carpeting, flooring and drapes, a new facade and marquee "in the style and flavor you'd see from the `20s and `30s," as well as a heated sidewalk and many other upgrades, are included in the project.
Downey said he will invest $300,000 in the project. A $200,000 loan from the village will be repaid with a 75-cent per ticket tax, and four core sponsors will add $150,000. The online campaign and sales of 1¼-inch thick engraved granite sidewalk stars are expected to raise $100,000, Downey said. When complete, there will be 168 seats on the main floor and 50 in the balcony of the main theater. Another 29 seats are envisioned for an adjoining retail space that will be converted to a "boutique theater" for private parties or other events, Downey said.
Village officials hope the project can spark other investment.
"We're very excited we're able to have somebody come in and take on a project of this magnitude and save one of the oldest businesses on the street," Mayor Lawrence Hanson said.
But the downtown has been in transition as some store owners have retired or are moving to smaller spaces, he added.
"How do we refocus and re-evaluate what we've always had?" he asked.
Antioch's downtown difficulties aren't as bad as in some other communities, Hanson said, "but we want to make sure we don't go in the wrong direction."
That could involve hiring a consultant, he added.