Investor requests help to save downtown Antioch movie theater
By Diana Kuyper For Sun-Times Media September 13, 2013 11:52AM
Updated: November 13, 2013 2:43AM
Antioch officials are backing the efforts of a private developer to upgrade and expand the Antioch Movie Theater, one of the village’s oldest downtown landmarks.
Real estate investor Tim Downey said the Lake Street theater, temporarily closed until the end of September, is struggling financially because it’s a one-screen movie house that has not converted to digital technology. He added that the owners don’t have the funds to make the needed improvements.
“The theater needs significant upgrades to keep it going,” said Downey, explaining that he fell in love with Antioch a few years ago when he purchased the Main Street building that houses Something Sweet. “I would like to make the improvements needed to convert it into a two-screen theater and upgrade to digital technology. I want to take this theater successfully into the next generation.”
Downey reported that it would take about $650,000 to purchase and upgrade the theater and the neighboring retail space to accommodate a second screen.
“I am willing to make a significant financial investment, up to half of the costs, and I am looking at other partnerships to raise the additional funds needed to bridge the gap,” he said. “I don’t want this to be a temporary fix that potentially could fail.”
However, Downey doesn’t foresee raising the capital needed without village and community support.
“I am throwing the idea out there,” he told village officials at their Sept. 11 committee meeting. “I know theaters bring life to a community and I want to make this theater into a destination.”
Citing the renovations made to downtown Barrington’s Catlow Theater, partly through community donations raised through kickstarter.com, Downey expressed confidence that a two-screen theater with updated technology could thrive in Antioch. In return for pledges, he proposed that donors could receive free movie passes to the renovated theater.
Village officials said they stand behind Downey’s efforts and will start exploring ways to support his project if he eventually acquires the property.
“I would hate to see it close,” Trustee Dennis Crosby said. “The theater has been here forever. It’s a landmark. By keeping it going we will help keep downtown viable.
“Give us more information,” Crosby told Downey. “Let’s work together to find an answer.”
Crosby suggested reviving the downtown tax increment financing district to help the project.
Mayor Lawrence Hanson reminded the board and staff that a one-quarter percent sales tax was temporarily added to revenue generated by the big-box developments when they were built on Route 173. The tax was enacted to support and encourage local businesses.
“We need to think hard about Antioch’s future,” said Hanson. “His might not be the only business that needs our help. There are a lot of long-time downtown business owners thinking about retirement soon. We need to offer incentives and encouragement to future business owners if we want our community to thrive.”
Hanson pledged that village officials will explore every option to help and encourage Downey’s project.
“I am confident that there is an answer, if we work hard to pull it together and save the theater,” said Downey.