The Crescent Theater Film Society announced today it will be unable to renew its lease at 208 Dauphin Street, meaning the theater will have to close.
Crescent Theater operator Max Morey confirmed the announcement shared on social media Wednesday afternoon. He said the closure comes after negotiations with the building’s landlord broke down over an increase in rent.
Crescent Theater Film Society board member Carol Hunter said John Switzer, the building’s landlord, was set to raise the rent to $2,200 per month and add an additional $500 per month in building expenses.
The theater society paid for rent last year with grant money, while Morey was responsible for utilities, Hunter said. She said the society applied for grants last year, after fundraising attempts — which have supplied money for rent since 2010 — proved fruitless.
In a phone interview with Lagniappe, Switzer said he’d “been taking a loss on the building for the last eight years,”
“I can’t afford to take a loss with the cost of the building” he added.
However, Morey said Switzer had also asked that he be removed as the theater operator during discussions about a new lease deal. While Switzer confirmed that had been discussed, he said it was Morey who initially offered to step down.
According to Hunter, Morey stepping down was part of a proposed lease agreement, though she said the society had no appetite to move on without him, even if money for rent was available.
“I don’t know how successful it would be without Max,” Hunter said.
Despite the setback, Morey seemed confident the theater would be able to move to another location since he owns everything inside the building.
“We’ll have to pack it all in a tractor-trailer and go to another building,” Morey said. “We don’t know where that’ll be.”
The society is less confident the theater will be able to move, Hunter said, although they are willing to consider all options. Right now, Hunter said, there is no money available to move it.
As for Switzer, he seemed to hold out hope that an agreement could still be reached. He said he loved the film society, adding there was “always room for negotiations.”
The last dates for the theater at its current location are still up in the air, Morey said they’d likely be sometime in May or June.
“This is very upsetting,” Morey said. “We don’t want to move ….”