What is the status of construction and the fundraising campaign?
In April 2016 the Colonial Theatre launched the public phase of the capital campaign after several years of quietly fundraising leadership contributions. The public campaign – also known as the Bank on the Arts campaign – has a goal of raising an additional $1M in gifts by December 2017.
As of March 2017, over $5.4M of the nearly $8M goal (67.5%) has been contributed by generous individual contributors and foundations. Bridge financing was secured with favorable terms from Malvern Federal Bank.
As the public campaign launched in April 2016, CH&E Construction, Inc. also began construction inside the Bank Building. It has progressed continuously since then and should be complete this spring by May 2017.
This extraordinary, transformative project requires extraordinary generosity from patrons, prominent members of the community, members, and philanthropists. We hope that as a visitor to this site, you’ll convert your enthusiasm for the project into action by becoming a donor-supporter!
CHALLENGE GRANT: This winter, two generous supporters pledged to contribute a $50,000 grant if $50,000 from new campaign donors is secured by July 1.
To view a copy of the campaign brochure, click here.
To make your gift or with question, contact Mary Foote, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Emily Simmons, Development Director at email@example.com. Or, call or visit our office during normal business hours at (610) 917-1228 or 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460.
Why expand the Colonial Theatre?
The lifeline of any business is growth. While our patrons and supporters have increased over the years, in 2008 a consultant revealed that the Colonial Theatre’s audience and programming could only continue to grow if we added more physical space. Only through a building expansion could we offer more programming and patron amenities. The long-term financial viability of any theatre depends on the number and versatility of venues that one set of theatre resources can successfully manage.
Right now, the Colonial Theatre is a single auditorium with one stage and screen that seats 658 patrons on the floor and in a balcony. Our patron amenities consist of a cozy lobby that can accommodate just ~80-100 patrons: a fraction of a full house during sold-out live concerts or films. Our tiny concession stand and bathrooms are also not proportionate to seating capacity. We primarily present arthouse and independent film, but also host an increasing number of live performers (comedy, music) through a partnership with Point Entertainment. The Colonial Theatre does have a modern, digital projection system in addition to 35mm projectors, but other essential elements of most modern theatres, like our load-in facilities and light and sound capabilities do not meet contemporary standards.
What are the expansion plans?
Through an adaptive re-use of the 11,000 square foot Bank of Phoenixville Building right next door to the existing Colonial, this project will add 2 additional, smaller theatres with seating capacities of 174 and 65. The Bank building and Colonial share an internal wall; the two buildings will connect through openings in the lobbies of each and at the back-of-house beneath the 1903 stage in the Colonial’s large auditorium.
Theatre 2 inside the Bank building will feature telescoping seating and a stationary balcony. It is designed to be a versatile space for film or special events like jazz evenings or children’s theatre and live performances. Theatre 3 will feature a stepped floor and luxurious, cozy fixtures. (To see renderings of the theatres and photos of construction progress to date, visit the Gallery.)
Other elements created through this building expansion will include:
- accessible restrooms in the main lobby, lower lobby, and Garden Suite
- three-stop elevator
- a rooftop deck overlooking the Phoenixville Foundry and Borough’s north side
- a garden suite with private restroom, projection capabilities, and wetbar adjacent to the rooftop deck (with access)
- ‘headliner’ dressing room with private restroom in the vault
- private access to the 1903 Colonial dressing rooms and stage for performers
- 30′ concession stand with wine and beer
- fully appointed catering kitchen
- expanded, reconfigured box office and entry
The new ‘wing’ of the Colonial Theatre you know and love will connect to the historic, 1903 vaudeville house at the current lobby. Patrons will still enter under the iconic marquee to enter the bank’s dramatic and spacious lobby, which still boasts its original glass skylight, sections of marble wainscoting, and ornamental plaster and moulding.
How did the Colonial Theatre plan for this project and fundraising campaign?
Shortly after we began to consider a building expansion, the historic ca. 1925 National Bank of Phoenixville Building next door to our theatre fortuitously went up for sale.
(For more on that building’s history we invite you to read this brief document, ‘An Unheralded Beauty on Bridge Street,’ compiled by local resident, Helen Harrop. For additional information we invite you to visit the Phoenixville Historical Society.)
To find an adjacent building that did not require structural work and possessed the right amount of space was extraordinary. Theatres expanding in other urban centers often must dig down to add theatre space. The Colonial Theatre has no basement to speak of so this was never a viable option.
Our Board of Directors successfully raised $1M to purchase the Bank building, which was sold to the Colonial Theatre for the sum of $700,000 in 2011. A Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant was secured from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to restore the façade of the Bank Building (which was completed in 2014). ACT then examined the financial and programmatic impacts of a business expansion on our existing business model. Webb Management Services, Inc. was hired to undertake this analysis and completed their Expansion Demand Planning Study in 2011 through a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation. It concluded that the Colonial Theatre was not likely to generate any additional income without a building expansion. Carnevale Eustis Architects were hired to begin the master plan. They worked with Cosler Theatre Design, Inc. to conceive an architectural plan that would realize our programming needs. Once the Master Plan was completed in 2012, the Colonial Theatre hired The North Group to determine our ability to raise the funds needed to support an $8M capital campaign and the Palmer Westport Group was hired to consult during the quiet phase of the capital campaign. A community Task Force was formed and the 35 members helped assess general interest in our project, perceptions of the Colonial Theatre, and willingness to give. The resulting Capital Campaign Feasibility Study was completed in 2012.
About the historic Colonial Theatre
The Colonial Theatre is an historic ‘vaudeville house’ located in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania in the Borough of Phoenixville. Built in 1903 by local resident Harry Brownback, the theatre is best known for serving as a setting in the 1958 sci-fi classic, The Blob, starring Stephen McQueen. Unlike many similar movie houses in other post-industrial or steel towns across the country, it survived demolition. Learn more about the Colonial’s history here.
When Phoenixville’s major employer Phoenix Steel closed in the 1970s, the town experienced a severe economic downturn. Things were particularly bleak when a group of concerned citizens banded together to assume ownership of the theatre after it was purchased from private operators by PAEDCO. The group included Mary Foote (Founding Executive Director), Ken Mumma (ACT Board President), and Trish Hartline (ACT Board member). Long-time residents, legislators, and former residents cite the Colonial Theatre’s rebirth as a major catalyst for the town’s revival. Movies gave the town a rallying point. The theatre reminded residents of its best days and connected the town to its more vibrant past. It also attracted new patrons who helped support new local businesses, stimulating the local economy to build a bright future.
Today, the nonprofit Association for the Colonial Theatre (ACT) is a beloved venue protected through the generosity of over 200,000 patrons and members since the ‘90s.
The Bank on the Arts building expansion campaign will facilitate the future growth of film and live programming, ensuring another 113 years of operation and enjoyment for patrons of all ages.