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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » For sale: Byrd Theatre, Richmond VA (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: For sale: Byrd Theatre, Richmond VA
William Hooper
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1879
From: Mobile, AL USA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-17-2003 02:22 AM      Profile for William Hooper   Author's Homepage   Email William Hooper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
http://www.nbc12.com/news/MGBGKNU77ID.html

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John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000


 - posted 07-17-2003 08:15 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What's the news about Film-Tech participant Bill Enos at the Byrd?

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Jim Spohn
Film Handler

Posts: 95
From: Bakersfield, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 07-17-2003 10:14 AM      Profile for Jim Spohn   Email Jim Spohn   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Good point John.....Bill are you out there? what's happening with the Byrd and with you....Regards...Jim

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Bill Enos
Film God

Posts: 2081
From: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Registered: Apr 2000


 - posted 07-23-2003 12:46 AM      Profile for Bill Enos   Email Bill Enos   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sorry for my belated response to this. We've been busy for the past few days.

FIRST
The Byrd Theatre IS NOT in danger of closing, nor is the building in danger of the wrecking ball, it is for sale as described below.

What is going on is this. In Sept 2002 the Byrd Theatre Foundation was created as a 501 (c)(3) non profit to raise money to buy the building from the estate that now owns it. There is a contract with a firm price and very generous terms for the purchase. First the roof which is in poor condition will be replaced. After that as funds become available seats will be rebuilt to contemporary comfort standards, carpet will be replaced with material that replicates the original. While the seats are out scaffolding will be erected to effect repairs to some damaged plaster and much cleaning otherwise impossible will be done. Separate fundraising will be sought for the rebuilding of the organ. (Wurlitzer #1948 installed in Aug. 1928, 4 manuals, 17 ranks, still playing and unchanged except for replacement of the french trumpet which was rarely used with a post horn which is used constantly. The french trumpet is stored safely in the building in the event that reinstallation is desired.)

The Byrd Watchers ARE NOT the purchasers of the theatre as stated in the WWBT channel 12 story. The Byrd Watchers are a self styled independent, well intentioned group led by Ms. Selvey and have been much help. They have unfortunately also been the source of some misinformation intended to create a sense of impending doom. Management is trying to right these misstatements.

Fundraising is starting to have success though it has a long way to go at a time when funds are tight.

The need is very real just not as near disaster as the story would indicate.

The Byrd Theatre Foundation development director, Tony Pelling may be reached at (voice) 804 342 9100 or (fax) 804 342 9119, or e mail at no1byrdrichmond@aol.com. The mailing address for all those tax deductable checks is
Byrd Theatre Foundation
2931 W. Cary Street #206
Richmond, Virginia 23221

The foundation was started by Duane Nelson who is the owner of Nelson Communications. It was done so that the theatre could continue to exist and operate past the life of the estate and his business. The intent is for it to continue to operate as a movie house open 365 days a year. As most of you are aware, to be able to see a motion picture in a theatre of this kind on an every day basis is extremely rare. We present mainstream second run features. Tonites films are Chicago at 7.15 and Identity at 9.30. Artsy fare has never worked for us. The theatre is also available for occasional live shows such as the fundraiser this past weekend and is used frequently by companies and groups needing a large and capable space for week day meetings. The stage is only 14 feet footlights to the back wall of the building and there are no stage lights, toilet facilities or even a drinking fountain at that end of the building, nor is there any flyspace (the organ loft is where that would be.)

FYI the Byrd Theatre Foundation and Nelson Communications are 100 percent separate and don't even share the same office. Eventually the foundation will own and operate the theatre. The theatre will continue to be operated by Nelson Communications for the foreseeable future......untill the foundation is fiscally and otherwise able to take over.
See the theatre webside at www.byrdtheatre.com
Thanks, I hope this makes things a little clearer.

[ 07-23-2003, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: Bill Enos ]

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Stephen Furley
Film God

Posts: 3059
From: Coulsdon, Croydon, England
Registered: May 2002


 - posted 07-24-2003 07:08 AM      Profile for Stephen Furley   Email Stephen Furley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bill wrote:

quote:

The Byrd Theatre IS NOT in danger of closing, nor is the building in danger of the wrecking ball, it is for sale as described below.

Well, that's good news.

Any idea of a timescale for the refurmishment works?

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Kenneth Wuepper
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1026
From: Saginaw, MI, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 07-24-2003 05:11 PM      Profile for Kenneth Wuepper   Email Kenneth Wuepper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hello Bill Enos,

You are involved in a very rewarding and patience trying project. The formation and operation of a non-profit tax exempt organization is a great undertaking. Here in Saginaw MI, we have a great example of a classic theatre which has private ownership and the new owners are "doing it right" with the place.

The Conrad Schmitt decorators will be moving out by the end of next week and the theatre never looked this good. If your group is serious about raising funds and restoring the place, get a professional decorating company to make a sample of how it will look when finished and then collect the money.

Many projects are bogged down when restoration is done in the wrong order. I have seen where the money flows into the project until the seats are comfortable and then it's over! You must do the tasks which benefit the integrity of the building first. The safety of the audience is the most necessary improvement you can make to the building. How it works before how it looks is a good rule. Physical appearance and comfort are the things people like to give money toward.

Your description of the stage house is interesting as it seems that there is little hope for live stage shows without extensive renovations. Is that true?

Best wishes on your project and if I can be of assistance, just drop an Email.

Sincerely, KEN

P.S. "Liebert Takes Richmond" was my first stereo tape and it was recorded in 2 track reel to reel on the Byrd Theatre WurliTzer.

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Bill Enos
Film God

Posts: 2081
From: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Registered: Apr 2000


 - posted 07-24-2003 11:40 PM      Profile for Bill Enos   Email Bill Enos   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is no time table at this time other than the roof which is ASAP. There are 7 buckets in the attic to intercept rainwater before it can do harm. Other things will happen when there is money. Fortunately no real restoration is needed, just some plaster repair and a company that specializes in that is preparing an estimate. The Byrd wass built as specifically as a movie theatre. The original owners, Charles Somma and Walter Coulter owned 3 other theatres in Richmond and 2 in Charlottesville. The other theatres did live shows as well as film, it has been said that with the advent of sound they anticipated a decrease in interest in live presentations and elected to build the Byrd without stage capabilities and as there is no firewall, asbestos curtain, lighting, dressing rooms etc., etc. etc. they saved a lot of cash. The fact that the it was a semi suburban house at that time probably influenced the decision too. With several other stage equipped theatres fairly close by that are dark 80% of the time there is no need for us to join their ranks, we do very well with movies and intend to keep it that way for the most part. To do live shows on a regular basis would also result in loss of granfathering on the plumbing, restrooms, entire electrical system, require sprinklers thru-out, and bringing the entire facility to 2003 codes of every type. Some of todays requirements are totally impossible at any price.

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Kenneth Wuepper
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1026
From: Saginaw, MI, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 07-26-2003 09:27 PM      Profile for Kenneth Wuepper   Email Kenneth Wuepper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bill,
Thanks for the information. I am sure that you are looking forward to involvement in the project. There is no substitute for the knowledge one gains through years of living in a theatre.

The concept of "Grandfathering" is a touchy one though. There are some money thresholds which trigger additional compliance issues. If possible, get the structure on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. That will usually lock in the external appearance of the structure and prevent major exterior renovations.

The question to ask is "If this was a brand new building, how would it pay its way?" Can you identify the "niche market" your going to serve? The old movie idea doesn't seem to be productive on a full time basis around here. We had to find other uses for the building besides film and in the year 2000 we had 218 events in the Temple Theatre.

The organ should be able to attract a following and the organ club will be able to assist you with a corps of volunteers to do lots of the jobs around the building. I mean ushers, ticket takers, concession and cleaning. The more people you can involve, the better your results will be.

Best wishes on your project. Keep us informed of your progress.

KEN

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William Hooper
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1879
From: Mobile, AL USA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-29-2003 01:45 AM      Profile for William Hooper   Author's Homepage   Email William Hooper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would point out that the group which winds up managing & operating the theater will make the most difference to the theater's survival.

Too often, a group with little or no knowledge about running a theater blows all the money on the wrong things, wrecks the physical plant, blows the goodwill, & drives it into the ground resulting in a shell of a theater that they *still* operate & complain that they maintain it even though it really has no modern useful purpose except for occasional use that can't be expected to attract ticket buyers.

I try not to use a lot of technical terms, but the expression is:
"It's amazing what bullshit & money will do."

That being said, the opposite is true, too, in that there are intelligent people successfully operating many historic theatre PAC's.

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Kenneth Wuepper
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1026
From: Saginaw, MI, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 07-30-2003 04:10 PM      Profile for Kenneth Wuepper   Email Kenneth Wuepper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Great insight William, thanks for bringing up the idea of "terms".

Here are some accepted terms in relation to your project:
PRESERVE Keeping the object as it currently exists
RESTORE Returning the object to original operating condition
Rehabilitate Bring a non functioning object back to useful condition
RE use To make the obect function in the current plan
All of these are good terms

RENOVATE to make into something new and different, often rendering the space or object indistinguishable from the original.
This is a BAD term and it makes the historical folks very angry Do not use it under peril of losing your funding. [thumbsdown]

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Bill Enos
Film God

Posts: 2081
From: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Registered: Apr 2000


 - posted 07-30-2003 09:50 PM      Profile for Bill Enos   Email Bill Enos   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Preservation and restoration is exactly what will be done. Renovation is reserved for the restrooms, sound system and things that affect the quality of the presentation and customer comfort and safety.

After nearly 75 years (opened Dec. 24, 1928) of continuous use, she needs a little cosmetic work. The only periods it was not open were in 1953 for the install of new projectors and scope screen and in '84 for a couple months when a trench 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide had to be cut in the lobby floor to run soda and water and drain lines to the concession counter.

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William Hooper
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1879
From: Mobile, AL USA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 08-01-2003 01:35 AM      Profile for William Hooper   Author's Homepage   Email William Hooper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Changes to the physical plant itself are just a part of what I was trying to illustrate. Severely diminishing the historic part (which is how the theater is usually marketed) is just one effect of what happens when very bad people try to run a theater. Changing to a non-profit, for instance, often puts folks who must look good to an arts or governmental group, as opposed to just put butts in the seat. They'll frequently spend money on bizarre things, put on programs that do not appeal to anyone but their group, etc., & are incapable of understanding why folks won't come just because they say that they should.

There was just today made public another example of this. The Rylander theater in Americus, GA has issued a press release that the theater is in the process of closing. Note that the cause is running out of money, i.e., poor ticket sales, i.e., nobody's coming to their shows.

City officials announced that the theater would soon likely have to shut its doors because of poor ticket sales. The manager & a "Cultural Authority" member are resigning. The manager, notice, is not resigning because he can't put butts in the seats. He says he's resigning because "it's very difficult to
solicit support for an institution when leaders in the community are announcing it will be closed...It makes it very difficult for me to do my job."

Note that he's completely oblivious to the fact that it's closing because he was incapable of doing his job. Nobody is coming to see anything, so there's no money. The "Cultural Authority" will of course be a non-profit organization created by or with the city to operate the theater.

He says "he cannot get patrons to commit to purchasing
tickets for a show series or get companies to donate money when local officials are talking about closing it down." They haven't been buying tickets before! He only sees the public's function & responsibility is to buy every ticket he prints, & cannot read his own failure at the job, or even what the job *is*.

It's only denial in a small part, in a large part it's utter obliviousness & utter lack of understanding of what the job is that they've been given, or how to do it.

It gets very strange when some theaters become nonprofits & municipally owned. If a non-profit "foundation" is created to operate the theater, often it's created from government & arts council cronies. They are VERY often far removed from being able to understand that a theater puts on programming that the public wants, & that their responsibility & aptitude must be to understand that. When they fail, they flail around & spend tons of money on more irrelevant, destructive things.

Hang on tight, Bill Enos, stay objective, emotionally detached & real. It may get hairy, it may not. If it gets hairy, it will be like the people in the pictures on the newspaper social page have decided to run the theater.

======================

Americus' Rylander Theatre in danger of closing
Shows canceled, officials resign

The Associated Press

AMERICUS -- The Rylander Theatre canceled six shows Tuesday and city
officials say the historic theater may have to close, despite its
reopening in 1999
with the help of $4 million of state, city and private funds.

Poor ticket sales have caused the site to lose money every time it
puts on a
show, said Jim Nelson, a member of the Cultural Authority.

City officials announced last week that the 1921 theater may have to
shut its
doors, prompting some officials to resign.

Jane Sullivan, chairwoman of the Americus Theater and Cultural
Authority,
turned in her resignation to city officials Monday. Norman
Easterbrook, general
director of the theater, and Cultural Authority member Nancy Herron
also turned
in their resignations Tuesday.

"The theater is not definitely closed but it's very difficult to
solicit
support for an institution when leaders in the community are
announcing it will be
closed," Easterbrook said. "It makes it very difficult for me to do
my job.
There's an undercurrent of skepticism about the theater that's very
difficult
to fight against."

The Rylander was built in 1921 in the grand style of movie theaters
of the
day. It closed in 1951, after hosting movies, plays and musical
events. After a
$4 million overhaul, it reopened in 1999 with its former grandeur
preserved.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who remembers boyhood visits to the
theater,
celebrated his 75th birthday there in a 1999 celebration.

City council members and other officials said they don't see any
other option
to closing the theater, even if only temporarily.

The Authority had approved contracts for a production of "Our Town,"
concerts
by country performers Ricky Skaggs and Route 66, a bluegrass show by
Winders
Eve with bluegrass fiddler Alison Brown, and other performances by
Jukebox
Saturday Night and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Those shows will have
to be held
at another venue or canceled entirely.

"Along with everybody else, I'd hate to see the Rylander close down
on a
full-time basis," said Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus. "However, what
we need to do
is get on a sound financial footing and get a game plan that works."

Easterbrook said he cannot get patrons to commit to purchasing
tickets for a
show series or get companies to donate money when local officials are
talking
about closing it down.

"The Rylander really has become part of the centerpiece of downtown.
It is
potentially a very great tourist attraction," Easterbrook said. "It's
a
remarkable theater in this part of the country."

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Thomas Procyk
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1842
From: Royal Palm Beach, FL, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 08-01-2003 09:47 PM      Profile for Thomas Procyk   Email Thomas Procyk   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I remember attending the Finals of the 2000 Southern Fried Poetry Slam at the Rylander theater. I took a lot of pictures of the place but my camera was acting wierd and none of them came out. [Frown]

The place was awesome with a full stage and organ. Very beautiful inside. I spoke with someone, don't know if it was the manager or owner or what, who showed me around the place. They had a screen that would "fly" in from the cieling to show movies. Don't know how they arranged sound since they were currently set up for a live show.

There was no 35mm film equipment installed and the man I spoke with said they had no interest to since their VIDEO projection system was GOOD ENOUGH for what they wanted to do... [Roll Eyes]

A beautiful place, but the fact that they were going to lose money on it was inevitable. I remember a majority of the locals complaining that there was "nothing to do" in the town at all. A girl I spoke to was shocked that I worked at an 18-screen, since their closest movie theater was a twin some miles away.

Someone should really take the bull by the horns and save the Rylander and give the locals something to do. [thumbsup]

=TMP=

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Bill Enos
Film God

Posts: 2081
From: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Registered: Apr 2000


 - posted 08-02-2003 02:38 PM      Profile for Bill Enos   Email Bill Enos   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Any time the word cultural is used, it means a place for the hoity, toities to come to see and be seen. Here is Richmond just such a group is trying to raise $100 million for an "cultural arts center". There isn't a hundred millions bucks worth culture is the whole damned state. They convinced the morons on the city council to add another one percent to the resturant meals tax in order to finance this fiasco. This brings the tax on restaurant purchases to almost 11%. City restaurants are screaming because the surrounding counties which are virtually cities themselves and have greater populations have no meals tax, just the sales tax which is 4 1/2%. If this is it takes to bring "culture", screw 'em movies are better and pay for their own facilities.

Along similar lines, why should tax money be used to build stadia for pro ball teams. They too should pay for and own their own facilities. The Redskins built their own, why can't ALL the others? If they are unable to afford it, the taxpayers should not be subsidizing them. Nascar and other raceing groups don't expect free race tracks to be built, why should freeloading ball teams get special treatment?

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Edward Jurich
Master Film Handler

Posts: 305
From: Las Vegas USA
Registered: Jul 2003


 - posted 08-11-2003 11:27 PM      Profile for Edward Jurich   Email Edward Jurich   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bill has a first hand experience of a historic theater going under bad management. I won't mention any names but it's in downtown Mobile, Al [Roll Eyes]

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