Saving the Appalachian Theatre

Article Published: May. 17, 2012 | Modified: May. 17, 2012
Saving the Appalachian Theatre

A committee dedicated to saving and restoring the Appalachian Theatre in downtown Boone is considering renovations that would harken back to the theater’s original design and style, as pictured.
Photos submitted

Plans for the renovation of the old downtown Boone Appalachian Theatre are moving forward slowly and carefully from a cautiously optimistic group of citizens.

Last November, the town of Boone purchased the foreclosed King Street cinema, formerly the Appalachian Twin Theatre, for $624,000. Since that time, a loyal group of interested locals has continued to meet regarding possibilities for renovating the theater to once again be a community hub for arts in Watauga County.

The most recent “Save the Appalachian Theatre” meeting was on May 8 in the Appalachian State University library.

Frank Mohler, a theatrical scenic artist and professor emeritus from Appalachian State, represented the design and construction committee. Mohler presented the latest plan for the theater renovation, which would include 600 seats and the ability to present various live performances, as well as film.

Mohler stated that the goal of this committee is to restore many of the decorative elements of the original theater, while also renovating it into a modern live performance venue. The theater plans include a larger lobby than the original, dressing rooms for performers and a meeting room on the second floor that can also be used for intimate performances.

Keith Martin, interim executive director for the ASU Department of Theatre and Dance and a well-known arts manager, reported on the operations and organizational subcommittee. The group has been refining the structure for the governing board of the theater, reviewing applications from potential board members, creating operating budgets for the theater and also soliciting and compiling the results of a potential user survey.

Martin stressed that a main goal of the group has been to conduct outreach to community arts organizations, soliciting ideas about elements local dance and theater groups would like in the rental venue.

Betty Bond of the financial committee gave a brief report, saying, “We’ll raise the money.”
Bond explained that the committee’s plans for financial stability include supporting the theater through both earned and contributed income.

Pilar Fotta, Downtown Boone Development Association coordinator, reminded the group that fundraising goal of $6 million will include purchasing the building from the town of Boone. That figure also includes renovating and staffing the theater and a fund for tiered-down facility operation.
The fundraising committee had recommended hiring professional fundraising firm Whitney Jones from Winston-Salem. Jones and his colleagues are currently researching the feasibility of a capital campaign to renovate the Appalachian Theatre.

When asked about the potential of Whitney Jones’ firm recommending against a capital campaign at this time, Fotta said, “I really do not feel like that’s what’s going to happen,” but added that if they do advise against this project, the Save the Appalachian Theatre group must listen.

Fotta said she is hopeful and that this group is doing all it can to create a financially stable and much-needed community arts space.

“If we can’t do it…that to me is not a failure,” Fotta said. “We have done due diligence, we’ve done everything we can to make sure this will work… to me, a failure would be moving ahead, not be successful and closing the space.”

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