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Plans in works to renovate movie house in Antioch

Antioch Theatre. | Sun-Times Medifile

Antioch Theatre. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: February 14, 2014 6:03AM

The expansion and renovation of the Antioch Downtown Theatre, one of the village’s oldest landmarks, could start next month and be ready for the summer movie season.

Real estate investor Tim Downey is negotiating to buy the deteriorating one-screen theater on Lake Street. Although his bid to buy the theater is less than $60,000, it will take about $720,000 to expand the theater by adding a second screen in a smaller theater, upgrade the existing theater, and convert to digital technology. He said the present owners don’t have the funds to make the needed improvements.

“The theater is in terrible condition and because 35-millimeter film will be discontinued this year, it must be upgraded to digital technology,” said Downey.

The theater was built in 1919 and turned into a movie house in 1924. Downey will remodel and upgrade the interior, returning it to a more traditional look of the early 20th century, retaining the balcony seating area. He will also remodel the exterior and install a new marquee. “We will maintain and improve its historic integrity. This expanded theater will be built to last and enjoyed by future generations.”

He is willing to contribute $300,000 of his own money, and will raise the additional funds through a combination of loans, corporate sponsorship and public fundraising. Last week, he asked village officials to loan him up to $200,000 over 10 years, which will be paid back through a 50-cent tax on theater tickets.

He’s confident a two-screen theater with updated technology could thrive. He expects to generate a yearly audience of 40,000 under manager Cindy Kottke. He said he would personally guarantee the loan from the village, but believes the 50-cent tax will generate $20,000 annually.

Village officials gave Village Administrator James Keim the nod to find the $200,000 to help finance the project.

“It would be a travesty to lose our downtown movie theater,” said Mayor Lawrence Hanson. “We should do everything we can to make this happen, and I think our community will support this effort.”

Keim said he believes the village can finance the loan. “We can find a way to make it work. We will research our options and bring something back to the village board on January 20.”

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