Jennifer Vincent announces the reopening of the Penmar Theatre, this morning.
By JAMES MILLER
The curtain will rise once again at the Penmar Theatre.
Dubbed, "the New Penmar", plans were revealed today for restoring the old movie theatre which will offer a venue for non-mainstream films, theatre, live music, conferences and meetings. The possibilities are actually endless, society members believe.
"The revamping of the Penmar is a fantastic community project," said spokeswoman Jennifer Vincent, a director of the Penmar Community Arts Society.
"We have paid attention to the decrease in available funding for the arts and have created a model which not only brings more cultural diversity to our community, it will create profits to be used to fund deserving performers and non-profits arts organizations in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen."
The Penmar closed its doors in September 2012 when the new Landmark Cinemas complex opened on the old Liquidation World property on Winnipeg Street. The Penmar, first opened in the 1950s, had sat empty since. The old theatre had four auditoriums of 224, 195, 176 and 104 seats.
The first phase of the upgrade includes amalgamating the two larger auditoriums into a single large theatre which will result in a 350-seat theatre.
Other Phase 1 projects include construction of a performance stage, a facelift to the front facade, a loading dock and other amenities such as a "green room" for performers.
It's hoped live events and movies will begin as soon as April 30, explains society director Jim Morrison of Wildstone Construction and Engineering, who presently owns the building with four others. The owners will lease the building to the non-profit society "below market value."
Downtown Penticton Association executive director Kerri Milton, who previously managed the Penmar, said foreign films, documentaries, classic re-releases second-run movies and Canadian films (which often play only in major cities) will be offered.
Milton is also excited in her role as DPA executive director noting the project is part of the overall downtown revitalization plans which includes turning the 200 block of Martin Street into an entertainment district.
"The addition of two to three full-time positions as well as a dozen or more part-time jobs, not to mention contract workers, is something the downtown needs," Milton said in reference to job creation.
Morrison said the plan is to expand the facility in stages.
The future phase will expand the main theatre floor seating to 450 and upgrade the lobby, create a stairwell and build new washrooms, office, parking and commercial space.
Dignitaries huddled in the cold, today, when making the announcement. An official launch is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 on the day of the Santa Claus Parade.
An open house inside the Penmar will be held from 12:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. where drawings will be on display and directors will be present to answer questions. Society memberships will be available.
Children's cartoons will play throughout the afternoon with admission by donation.
Following the parade, the facility will reopen at 6:30 p.m. for a 1950's gala theme party which will include a viewing of the sing-a-long version of Grease, the 1978 musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John where lyrics to the songs appear on the screen. Admission to the 50's party is $10.
A more elaborate gala grand opening is being organized for April.
Morrison said corporate naming rights for the building or sections of the building are also available.
Coun. John Vassalaki, who was at the morning launch, is enthusiastic about the project for many reasons.
"It's a super, super idea," said Vassalaki. "If we want to bring people and good jobs to Penticton, we need to be able to offer culture and this will help bring people downtown and live downtown. It's being run by a non-profit society of knowledgeable people and the project is extremely realistic, it's not $30 or $40-million that we've been hearing for a long, long time."