Developing Your Historic Theater Renovation Plan
If a community is considering preserving and renovating a historic theater, the first thing to do is identify a leader for the project. This leader must be someone who has a high profile and is capable of galvanizing various constituencies in the community. This individual must also be able to direct the project and lead the fund raising campaign. Once this individual is named, the following points should be explored systematically to determine the feasibility of the project and its potential for success.
Determine the Historic Significance and Structural Integrity of the Theater – Does the theater have landmark status, architectural features and a performance history worth preserving? Are the interior and exterior of the building structurally sound? If not, what will it take to make them so?
Assess the Need – Does the community need this theater? Will it overlap or compliment other facilities in the community? Who will use it? Who will it serve? Will it enable the community to enhance cultural and community activities?
Determine Potential Users and Their Needs – Which organizations in the community might use the renovated theater: arts groups, educational and community organizations and presenters? Might national presenters be interested in using the facility for performances and events? What are the possible uses: plays and musicals, concerts, dance, opera, music, film, lectures, children’s productions, touring productions, community meetings? What are the lobby, house and stage needs: number of seats, rigging and stage lighting systems, lobby space, dressing rooms, storage needs, administration offices, etc. of the potential users?
Develop a Projected Program – Based upon the needs of potential users, develop a projected schedule of how the theater might be used for one year. The program should be developed to gain maximum use of the facility, because there are fixed operating costs that continue when the theater is not in use. Along with the program, a projected budget should be developed that includes facility operating costs.
Estimate the Cost of the Renovation – Based upon potential uses, determine the estimated cost to renovate the entire facility, including all interior work: the stage, all technical systems, backstage and work spaces, audience and front-of-house spaces, as well as: exterior façade, signage and landscaping.
Determine Fundraising Capability – Determine the ability of the community to raise the funds needed to finance the entire renovation and to establish an operating endowment. Identify major private donors, government and community funding resources, businesses and the feasibility to launch a special campaign to seek grass-roots support from as many individuals as possible within the community. Ideally, 50% of the total renovation costs should be committed before beginning the project.
With good leadership, a sold plan built upon careful examination of these points and a substantial portion of the funding in place a community is well-positioned to undertake the preservation and successful renovation of a historic theater.