Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

October 3, 2013

Grand Theater Foundation receives nonprofit status

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — Dylan Morse with the Grand Theater Foundation informs the Journal-Express that the organization has been granted its nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service. 

The status will allow the foundation to apply for grants from local, regional and national foundations. Donations from others to the foundation can now also be tax-deductible. 

The foundation is trying to raise a total of $500,000. This total would cover the bids for known renovations and providing flexibility for unknown issues that may arise. 

According to Morse, the top priority is to raise $20,000 to purchase the contents of the building. Current owner, Fridley Theaters, is then expected to donate the building to the foundation as a charitable tax write-off. 

The second priority is to raise another $20,000 to update the building's electrical system to accommodate updated projection and sound equipment. Morse said the foundation would like to keep two screens in the theater, which would necessitate purchasing two digital projectors to play first-run movies in Knoxville. The cost for the projectors and sound equipment for both theaters is $108,000. In the future, the foundation would like to update the bathrooms, the interior and facade. 

"People should know that this project will not happen without their buy-in," Morse said. "We mean it when we say this is a community space and a community project. Without support from the community, it just won't happen. We're very hopeful that people will respond to our calls for donations of time and money, and we're very excited to hire as many local contractors as possible to revive this piece of Knoxville history." 

The facade renovation, in part, is intended to use the building as an example to beautify downtown. Morse hopes other downtown property owners will see the finish product and try to learn more about what they can do to beautify Knoxville.

The theater closed a few years ago, which has made some skeptical about the theater's prospects if it was reopened, even by a nonprofit organization. Morse said the theater did not close because of a lack of profitability, but because it no longer fit the business model for Fridley. 

"The facts are that the theater was supporting itself - covering all of its expenses, including a couple decent salaries and turning a profit in each of the last several years," Morse said. He added that Fridley did not want to purchase the digital equipment for the theater. 

"With a fresh start, including sorely needed heating and cooling updates, modernization of the electrical infrastructure and new digital projection and sound equipment, we really feel like the theater will be a completely self-sustaining enterprise in very short order," Morse said. 

He envisions the theater as more than just a place to catch a movie. The foundation would like to see the theater be used as another amenity to help "sell" Knoxville as a place to live, work and invest. The theater could host live performances, special events, community functions, private parties and screenings. 

"Our existing downtown businesses really felt the closure of the theater in their bottom lines," Morse said. "We're confident that reopening will provide a nice boost to those merchants, as we continue to rebuild and improve the square and surrounding areas. Reopening and revitalizing this property will go a long way toward boosting confidence in downtown and in the community in general." 

Morse said the foundation has tried to be transparent throughout this process. Questions can be directed to the foundation through the Grand Theater's Facebook page or by calling the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce at 641-828-7555. The foundation's mailing address is PO Box 151, Knoxville, IA, 50138. 

Updates on the progress made toward reopening the theater will be shared via local media and the Facebook page.