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Investor group to purchase, reopen Taylor Theater

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The Chowan Herald

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

EDENTON — A local investor group is raising funds to purchase the closed Taylor Theatre in downtown Edenton and have it possibly reopened in time to screen movies before Christmas.

Last week, representatives of the investor group Friends of the Taylor Theater held a meeting to explain their plans for reopening the theater that closed in June after its previous owner balked at making building repairs needed to keep the moviehouse open.  

Charlie Creighton, one of the leaders of the group of 45 investors planning to buy the theater, said in a recent interview with the Chowan Herald he was optimistic the investment group would be able to raise the money it needs quickly. Not only does Friends of the Taylor Theater plan to purchase the theater building from the Montanaro Family NC Properties, it also wants to make the repairs the building needs.

“We believe that Edenton needs a theater and citizens want the theater as would anyone,” Creighton said. “Taylor Theater helps Edenton stand out among small towns. We plan to be showing first run movies. This'll be a great thing for the citizens of Chowan County and surrounding areas.”

At last week’s community meeting, Creighton provided some details on how Friends of the Taylor Theater is structured as well as the project itself. He said each of the 45 investors provided $10,000 — an amount large enough to buy the theater building for $325,000 and make $150,000 in repairs. Total cost of the project is expected to be $475,000.

Friends of the Taylor Theater also have found a local couple — Belinda and Ryan Respass — to lease the theater as its new operators. The Respasses are former long-time employees of the theater.

“They are passionate about the movie theater and very experienced about he total operation — buying movies, showing movies, projection, popcorn, and other matters,” he said.

Ryan Respass said he and his wife are well aware of the commitment that will be required of them to make the movie theater successful enough to continue its tradition of showing first-run movies. But he feels they are up to the challenge, he said.

“We’re really putting our lives into it,” he said. “We know the customers very well. We really think we can do this.”

Besides screening first-run and classic films, the theater also plans to become a venue for birthday parties and special events. Moviegoers will also see new equipment, including a new popcorn machine, and possibly a slightly lower ticket prices. The digital projection equipment purchased with funds donated by local citizens and watched over by the town since the theater closed will continue to be used.

Under the business plan developed by the Friends group, the Respasses will have a five-year lease with three five-year options to renew. The agreement also includes a provision that prohibits the rent from rising beyond 10 percent. The effective date of the lease will be Jan. 1, 2018 and the Respasses’ first two months in the theater will be rent free.

During the four months that follow, the theater rent will be $1,000 a month. For the next six consecutive months, rent payments will be $1,300. Then for the next four years, the monthly rent payments will be $1,700, Creighton said.

The Friends group will be responsible for paying for the building’s insurance, taxes, structure and roof maintenance, which are estimated at $200 a month.

Also affected by the Friends group’s purchase of the Taylor Theater will be two businesses that currently lease a portion of the building. Candace Thompson, owner of the Downtown Diva, has agreed to a five-year lease to continue to occupy her space while Emilio Torres, owner of Emilio’s General Store, has committed to a two-year lease. Both will have an option to renew for three five-year periods.

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