Noting it’s very speculative at this point, Crescent Theater Film Society board member Carol Hunter confirmed Tuesday morning the group is working on a deal to move the single-screen theater to 450 Dauphin St.
Hunter emphasized the situation remained fluid and many factors would have to be considered before the move could be considered a done deal.
“It’s going to be very, very hard,” Hunter said. “I’m reluctant to say it’s a done deal.”
If a lease agreement can be reached, hurdles for the move would remain, Hunter said. The society and the theater operator, Max Morey, would have to raise money in order to build out the theater at a new location. Hunter said Morey would set up a GoFundMe account to raise the money needed for a conversion.
“He could sign a lease tomorrow, but would still need to raise somewhere north of $430,000 to build out a theater,” she said of Morey. “Max will launch a GoFundMe account.”
In order to raise the needed money, Hunter said, donations would have to come in from individuals and corporations. She said she hoped the community’s passion for the theater would result in the needed donations.
Hunter said the layout of the proposed new location would be nearly identical to the building at 208 Dauphin, with maybe a few more seats.
“It’s very conceptual; it’s very speculative,” she said of the plans. “If all the things work out, this is what it will be.”
Morey confirmed the announcement shared on social media April 5. He said the closure at 208 Dauphin St. comes after negotiations with the building’s landlord broke down over an increase in rent.
Hunter said John Switzer, the 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, during discussions about a new lease deal, that he step down as theater operator. 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 an agreement could 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, but would likely be sometime in May or June.
“This is very upsetting,” Morey said. “We don’t want to move …”