Music, Theater and Performing Arts in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado @ 813 Lincoln Avenue 970-871-4791
‘Cabaret’: High on Yampa Valley Life
Steamboat Springs — I love the local celebration that is “Cabaret,” the Steamboat Springs Arts Council’s annual fundraiser to benefit a range of artists in the community, from visual to musical to performing. But you’d better be prepared to enjoy more than your share of dope jokes to really get the benefit of this year’s version, titled “Cabaret 2013: Barely Legal.” The title refers to the recently passed Amendment 64 that legalizes marijuana for recreational use here in Colorado.
Judging from the age of the crowd, recreational use has been fairly common for years, so most of us caught on to the references quickly. More than a few of the doper skits rang all too true: the paranoid sheriff desperately fighting the rising tide of blue smoke, the weed smokin’ song and a surreal version of Neverland inspired by a Peter Pan who looks great in green, even if not wrapped in a rolling paper.
“Barely Legal” marks the return to “Cabaret” of David Jolly — he’s Peter Pan with Park Myers as Tinkerbell, a combination you don’t want to miss — and his performing skills and writing ability definitely lift the show to a higher level, pun intended. The opening “We’re Not That Cabaret” number, including a video of some the funniest and worst Liza Minnelli impressions you will ever see outside of a hashish-induced nightmare, features Jolly at his best. Later in the show, he writes and performs in an explanation of “The Rest of the Story,” which goes behind those vaguely mysterious and intriguing police blotter reports published in the Steamboat Today.
There is a solid band backing the Paula Salky- and Katy Kriz-directed production featuring local musicians Randy Kelley, Rick Philipp, Kevin Williams, Willie Samuelson and Gerry Verdoner. Once again, Kris Hammond resurrects the Steamboat mailman (the crowd murmurs in warm appreciation every time he walks onstage) and performs a rousing welcome to the almost completed Casey’s Pond Senior Living center. On second thought, that bit might be a trifle too close to home for some of us. ...
Read the full story at the Steamboat Pilot.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Every morning I drive westward through downtown Steamboat Springs and my eyes drift from the road in front of me to black letters on an off-white background. For years, I wasn’t sure what I was searching for between those familiar horizontal lines. Every week, the new movie times went up, and that was all.
By Jim Cook Tuesday, February 19, 2013
What an amazing night for the inaugural opening of the Chief Theater. A spirited performance by the ladies of the “Vagina Monologues” showed that we have a tremendous pool of talent here in the Yampa Valley. The performance was packed to the walls and supported Advocates Building Peaceful Communities’ very important mission here in Steamboat Springs and throughout the world.
While the falling snow begins to pile up outside and change the look of downtown Steamboat, the Chief Theater is taking on a new look of its own. Some of the improvement and temporary renovations have already started. Take a look at a few of the pictures from inside. Check back soon for more photos
Tamara Beland Becomes the New Executive Director
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Story by Steamboat Today
It’s a love story, really. That and serendipity brought the Chief Plaza Theater its new executive director.
Tamara Beland moved to Steamboat Springs in August to be with the man she loves. She left a good position in Denver — “determined to land on (her) feet” — and was driving through downtown when she saw “Fin?” on the marquee at the Chief.
Thinking to herself about the potential of the venue, she researched the Chief and contacted Friends of the Chief, the nonprofit that purchased the theater, and submitted a proposal to the organization.
Friends of the Chief interviewed five finalists for the executive director position, and Beland was offered the job Sunday.
On Wednesday, the complete Friends of the Chief board of directors got its first chance to meet Beland at Sweetwater Grill.
Beland comes to Steamboat after spending six years in Denver. She’s familiar with the city from time spent here away from the Front Range.
In Denver, she worked as the director of facilities, housing and transportation at the Eating Recovery Center, a hospital focused on eating disorders. Before that, Beland lived in Austin, Texas, and worked as the director of operations at the Austin School of Music and started her own nonprofit, the Austin Arts and Music Project.
Her stint at the Eating Recovery Center gave her experience with construction and facilities management, she said. Beland also has experience in grant writing, marketing and fundraising and brings to the Chief a background as an actress and a singer.
“This job is a culmination of all my jobs over the years,” Beland said. “It takes all of it into the perfect storm.”
Jim Cook, president of Friends of the Chief, said Wednesday that when Beland asked him about the budget for midterm renovations at the theater, he said, "There is no budget," but he said she was asking the right questions.
Valerie Stafford, another Friends of the Chief board member, said what drew the hiring committee to Beland was her mix of experience in theater, bookings and facilities.
She has a “natural knack for people,” Stafford said. Beland’s history of working with nonprofits also helped make the decision, she said.
“We can really fulfill our vision and inspire others to take advantage of the facility,” Friends of the Chief board member Melanie McDaniel said about hiring a director.
Stafford said the board is happy to have a full-time, dedicated person to manage the venue after having to distribute duties among volunteer board members.
Beland said she’s a “boots on the ground” type of person and is dedicated to making the Chief a community asset. She also said she will be open to input from residents.
Beland said she "jumped off a cliff" to move to Steamboat, but she's committed to seeing the Chief prosper.
“The people you have on the board are smart, talented and successful people,” Beland said. “And they’re determined to succeed.”
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Tuesday, October2, 2012
Story by Steamboat Today
Steamboat Springs — If you have the old marquee for the Chief Plaza Theater in a barn somewhere, Friends of the Chief would like it back.
The nonprofit group closed on its purchase of the historic downtown theater Tuesday morning, and members want to know where the old, lighted marquee that used to grace the building now resides. It's needed. The theater is making a comeback.
At a reception Tuesday afternoon in the lobby of the Chief, Friends of the Chief board President Jim Cook said the plan is to do minor renovations to the theater and have it hosting events by about Thanksgiving.
Cook said the wall between the two larger movie theaters will be torn down and a new stage will be built in what will be the main venue area.
“Now that the ownership exists, we can use the space,” Friends of the Chief board member Valerie Stafford said earlier, noting the proceeds from events will go to the larger renovation costs.
In the lobby of the theater Tuesday, plans for a new building were displayed. The current structure would be razed except for the facade, which would be returned to a circa 1940s look, and a single-stage venue would be built in its place, Stafford said. A basement would be added along with a balcony level.
The proposed building would be able to host musical acts, dance, theater and conference events or large dinners, using a floor that would rise from sloped toward to level with the stage, according to the plans.
But the construction phase might be three years out, and in the interim, the group is seeking a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and plans to continue to raise funds.
Carmike Cinemas left behind the seats, sound systems and screens when it closed the theater in early September. Friend of the Chief hopes to take advantage of the items when the two larger theaters are combined.
Standing in front of the group that gathered Tuesday to celebrate the coup, Cook raised a glass of Champagne and toasted all those who had worked for three years to make the purchase happen.
“There were days that if you asked me the odds, I’d say it would have been the other way. But we have the deed,” Cook said.
September 4, 2012
Seventy-plus years of a theater in downtown Steamboat Springs appear to be coming to at least a temporary end Thursday when the Chief Plaza Theater closes its doors. Truth be told, the theater’s closing might be the best thing to happen to the historic downtown building, which has deteriorated throughout the years into a second-rate entertainment venue.
While it’s easy to romanticize the notion of a vibrant downtown cinema that harkens to simpler times, the reality is that neither Carmike Cinemas nor the building’s owner have adequately maintained the facility that dates to the 1920s. We hope this week’s closure — precipitated by the end of Carmike’s lease agreement with building owner Michael Barry — escalates the earnestness with which Barry and a group calling itself Friends of the Chief work to get a deal done that eventually will breathe new life into the Chief Plaza Theater.
We’ve long been intrigued by the Friends of the Chief’s proposal, which seeks to secure public and private financing to purchase the building and renovate it into a single-stage performing arts venue reminiscent of the theater’s original design. But the effort has encountered numerous obstacles, foremost being how to secure financing to help offset the purchase price and renovation costs, estimated to be about $7 million. When news of the Chief’s pending closure broke last week, Friends of the Chief leaders detailed their latest efforts to purchase the building, which include forming a limited liability company.
Barry’s real estate representative, Jon Sanders, says Barry’s first choice remains to close on the deal with Friends of the Chief and see his theater reborn as a lively downtown performing arts venue. But Sanders said they could lease the building in the short-term to other groups.
No one wants to see another prominent downtown building with vacancy signs in the windows. And as bad as the moviegoing experience at the Chief had become in recent years, the presence of a downtown theater certainly helped other downtown businesses increase foot traffic while also providing a safe, accessible place for the community’s kids and teens to hang out.
Even so, Steamboat Springs moviegoers are the near-term winners with Thursday’s closure. The best movies now will be shown exclusively at the best movie theater in town — Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Wildhorse Marketplace. It remains to be seen what the long-term impact of the Chief’s closing will be, but we’re hopeful the end of one era will lead to the beginning of a better one for the historic downtown theater facility.
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Friday August 31, 2012
Story by Michael Schrantz
Steamboat Springs — “Going digital is not going to bring more people in the door,” David Corwin said about Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas' conversion to digital projection. And while there might be some small consumer preference for digital, he echoes the sentiments of theater owners across the nation.
What will bring more people through Corwin’s door is the Sept. 6 closing of the Chief Plaza Theater, which is operated by Carmike Cinemas. Corwin — who is the president of Metropolitan Theatres, which operates Wildhorse — estimated that when the Chief was open, his company’s theater still played the majority of the top films and absorbed as much as 80 percent of the revenue from film in the city. Now, Wildhorse will get the whole pie.
More than that, the closing of the Chief opens up the film distribution market in Steamboat. With two theaters in town, Steamboat was what Corwin referred to as an allocated market: Film distribution companies split upcoming theatrical releases into bundles that then are allocated to theaters in the market.
Alan Stokes, vice president of film marketing and advertising for Metropolitan Theatres, said that in a market like Steamboat, distributors will offer a package of films with two tracks, or lineups, of films. The tracks contain a mix of films, pairing strong films with weaker ones to reach some parity of offerings between tracks.
“There was a time when it was blind bidding,” Corwin said. “But not anymore.”
Corwin said the film distribution company makes the final decision but that there is no objective standard of how that process goes. Even the period of the package varies depending on how many films a distributor is releasing in a given time.
When Steamboat has only one movie theater after Sept. 6, Corwin said, it becomes a closed market.
“We’ll be able to play all the top films,” he said.
“What it does is it makes it a little more selective in what we play,” Stokes said. “Now, you're down to six screens (in Steamboat). But we’re going to get the best-quality film that’s coming out.
“We’re excited that we’re going to be the premier venue, and we’re going to do our best to accommodate everyone and what they want to see.”
Transition to digital projection
While the Chief had completed the transition to digital projection (that equipment leaves with Carmike), Wildhorse only has two screens with digital projection. But that should change by the end of the year. Metropolitan Theatres is working on completing the transition to digital for all its 101 screens at 19 sites by the end of 2012, Corwin said.
Film production companies have been putting pressure on theaters to make the transition for the cost it saves in 35 mm production and distribution. Those savings are realized by the film companies while the initial outlay for new equipment largely is borne by the theaters. And because digital projection doesn’t lead to more patrons and revenue, like Corwin said, it has been a tough transition for many independent theaters. Even for a chain like Metropolitan, it has been a process years in the making, Corwin said.
But it has to happen — and soon. Some studios will stop producing films in 35 mm by as soon as 2013.
The independently owned Majestic Theatre in Crested Butte finished its digital conversion Friday after a successful fundraiser for the initial costs and finding financing for the rest, according to an article from the Crested Butte News. The article also states that the Majestic Theatre is taking advantage of a subsidy from production companies that will pay back the cost of the equipment throughout 10 years if it is installed by Sept. 30.
Corwin said production companies do offer some incentives to theaters to make the transition. A virtual print fee is a payment from a studio to a theater when digital prints are delivered instead of film. The fee is set up to redistribute the savings realized from moving away from 35 mm prints by paying the theater part of the difference between digital print costs and film costs during a set period of time. A virtual print fee program typically sunsets when the equipment costs are recouped.
“We have 35-year-old film equipment that runs like new,” Corwin said, but the digital equipment will have a shorter lifespan than film equipment as the technology will improve and change more rapidly.
But with the departure of Carmike, resulting in 100 percent market share, and the digital transition nearing completion, Wildhorse is looking pretty good.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Story by Michael Schrantz
Steamboat Springs— Friends of the Chief has a new plan and might be closer than ever to closing — for good this time — on the Chief Plaza Theater building the nonprofit group hopes to renovate into a performing arts venue in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Jim Cook, spokesman for Friends of the Chief, said the nonprofit is working on a plan where the gap financing needed to secure the building is supplied by an limited liability company. The U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that the group has been pursuing requires ownership of the building before the application is approved. Once the nonprofit secures the funds necessary to buy the building, the group can reapply for the USDA loan.
The LLC has yet to be formed, said Steamboat Lawyers Group attorney Jason Lacy, who eventually will draw up the company. Lacy said the number of investors still is not finalized. Those involved are electing to remain anonymous at the present time.
“They’re definitely people that live here in the community,” he said.
Lacy said the company will be legally formed when the number of participants and structure are agreed upon.
The LLC would loan the money to the Friends of the Chief Foundation nonprofit, which then would pay the LLC back from, ideally, the USDA loan.
Lacy said the nonprofit is working on a new offer for the building after going through a couple of iterations throughout the past few months.
“It’s looking much closer,” he said.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Story by Michael Schrantz
Steamboat Springs— The downtown district in Steamboat Springs will be without a movie theater after Sept. 6. The Chief Plaza Theater operated by Carmike Cinemas is closing its doors that night, and the company is moving out its equipment.
The lease for Carmike Cinemas is up Oct. 1. The early closing date leaves the company time to pack up.
“It’s a definite loss,” said Tracy Barnett, manager of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs. “The movie theater has been around for 70-something years,” she added, noting it has been through multiple iterations and venues in downtown.
Barnett said the presence of a movie theater helps other downtown businesses.
“Often (moviegoers) will have dinner or dessert afterward, and it’s something to do in the evening without having to go to a bar,” she said. “It does leave a hole in the options we have for evening entertainment.”
While the Chief may be in limbo after Carmike leaves, the renovation of the theater into a performing arts venue long has been the goal of the nonprofit group Friends of the Chief, of which Barnett is a board member. The contract between the group and building owner Michael Barry has been a drawn out, on-again, off-again affair.
“If everything goes right, we will be able to close on it before the end of the year,” Friends of the Chief spokesman Jim Cook said. “It’s all positive. It’s all moving forward.”
Jon Sanders, of Ski Town Commercial real estate agency, is representing Barry and said the building owner's first choice is for Friends of the Chief to buy the building. However, Sanders said his client is batting around some Plan B ideas for the venue to keep it open and functioning in the near term. Among the proposed options are turning the Chief into an independent, boutique theater or a live music venue.
“We’re looking for folks that may be interested in leasing the space,” Sanders said.
Sanders said his client does want to see the building in use. Otherwise, “it will end up being closed, which isn’t going to help downtown,” he said.
The venue will close after Carmike leaves, at least in the short term, said Grant Bursek, Barry’s attorney.
“We would entertain offers,” he said about the potential for another lease, but he reiterated that his client’s first wish is to get a deal done with Friends of the Chief.
“We could get someone in there right away if we move quickly,” Sanders said. “If anybody wants to turn it into the Fox Theatre, they should be calling me.”
Sanders can be reached for ideas or inquiries at 970-871-0002.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Friday, January 27th, 2012
Story by Jack Weinstein
Steamboat Springs — Friends of the Chief spokesman Jim Cook delivered encouraging news Friday for those supportive of the nonprofit group’s effort to renovate the historic Chief Plaza movie theater.
Cook told the audience at the Mainstreet Steamboat Springs annual meeting that Friends of the Chief had been asked to submit a final application for a $4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to convert the 1920s-era, four-screen theater in downtown Steamboat to a single-stage, 455-seat performing arts center.
“That, in essence, means you’ve been approved,” Cook told the audience.
Friends of the Chief previously submitted a pre-application to the USDA.
After the meeting, Cook said Friends of the Chief would know for sure whether it receives the funding in May, after completing a feasibility study. If approved, Cook said Friends of the Chief would start fundraising for the $7 million project.
Despite the news about the grant, Cook acknowledged there’s still a long way to go.
“While you think there might be a great deal of relief, you have the next step,” he said. “I personally won’t let any demolition take place until we have all the money.”
Cook said the best-case scenario for construction was spring 2013 with completion in spring 2014.
To date, Cook said Friends of the Chief has raised and spent less than $100,000, including $50,000 to secure the earnest payment to buy the theater last fall from owner Michael Barry. The sale price wasn’t disclosed, but the theater was listed for sale at $2.9 million.
Cook said the vision of the group is for the theater to serve as a performing arts center for community players and nonprofit groups, and Friends of the Chief has worked with Integrated Community to make it available to groups from the Latin American and West African communities. He said it also would be available for conferences and weddings, with the capacity to hold 750 people for standing-room-only events.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Thursday September 15, 2011
Story By Jack Weinstein
Steamboat Springs — The Friends of the Chief group has secured the necessary funding to put the Chief Plaza Theater under contract, the first step in converting it to a downtown performing arts center.
The community-based group secured $50,000, which equals the earnest payment that was due by Thursday according to the terms of the deal reached with theater owner Michael Barry.
“We have got that, and we have got more, actually,” Friends of the Chief spokesman Jim Cook said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go, so it’s a start.”
Cook said securing the earnest money for the theater gives Friends of the Chief time to begin its application for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to assist with the actual purchase and theater renovation as well as to begin fundraising.
“It just gives us an opportunity to begin in earnest,” Cook said. “We’ve been working on a hope and a prayer for three years. This is a big step.”
Friends of the Chief has planned a $6 million to $8 million renovation that would convert the 1920s-era, four-screen theater to a single-stage performing arts center with 450 seats. The listing price once was $2.9 million.
The Chief was a single-stage theater with 600 seats when Barry bought it in 1970.When reached last month from his home in Lakeside, Mont., Barry praised the Friends of the Chief’s plans to renovate the historic theater.
“They want to bring it back to the way the Chief was when it was first built,” he said. “I think a venue like that is sorely needed in Steamboat.”
The USDA grant requires a pre-application, which is due Oct. 1, Cook said. He said if it’s approved, which the group has been assured it would be, they then would submit a formal application and feasibility study, which could cost as much as $30,000.
Cook said in the short term, Friends of the Chief needs to raise $100,000 to pay for the feasibility study and other requirements of the USDA application.
He said the group would need the support of the community. By the time it’s completed, the Chief would be a multiuse facility for performing arts, concerts, wedding receptions and more.
Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett in an email invited members of the community to join Friends of the Chief board members for a celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Sweetwater Grill.
“The vision of a cultural and performing arts venue in downtown Steamboat is one step closer to reality,” she said in the email.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Story By Jack Weinstein
Steamboat Springs — The Friends of the Chief has reached an agreement to buy the Chief Plaza Theater, but the deal is contingent on raising $50,000 in earnest money by Sept. 15.
Friends of the Chief spokesman Jim Cook said that if the group secures the $50,000, it would have time to apply for grant funding to buy and renovate the theater. Friends of the Chief has raised $15,000, which means $35,000 remains.
“We’re very confident we’ll reach the $50,000,” Cook said.
He said the agreement, which was reached Aug. 15, is basically an option to buy the downtown theater. The $50,000 is nonrefundable. Cook said he couldn’t comment further because of confidentially.
Friends of the Chief has planned a $6 million to $8 million renovation that would convert the historic four-screen theater to a single-stage performing arts center with 450 seats.
Chief Plaza owner Michael Barry, reached by phone Tuesday afternoon from his home in Lakeside, Mont., said he thought the plans to renovate the theater were fantastic.
“I have a great deal of warm thought for Steamboat Springs — matter of fact I have a daughter, son-in-law and three grandkids still there,” he said. “I’ve seen (Friends of the Chief’s) plans. They want to bring it back to the way the Chief was when it was first built. I think a venue like that is sorely needed in Steamboat.”
The 1920s-era Chief Plaza Theater was a single-stage theater with more than 600 seats when he bought it in 1970, Barry said. Having retired six years ago and now splitting time between Montana and Naples, Fla., Barry listed the theater for sale last summer.
Barry wouldn’t disclose the agreed-upon price of the Chief, but said it was less than what the theater is probably worth. The listing price was once $2.87 million.
Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said a renovated Chief would become an anchor for downtown benefiting businesses while creating more nightlife options.
Barnett, who leads the group that promotes the downtown Steamboat shopping district, added that it would be amenity that doesn’t exist downtown. She said it would provide a meeting space for events such as conventions or weddings as well as being a location for a variety of entertainment options.
“The more things that we have for people to do in the evenings downtown is really important,” she said.
Elle Decor Magazine | July/August 2011 Issue
A recent article about the youthful rebirth of downtown Jackson Hole, references unique shops, new galleries, new music and more. This sort of cutural infusion has played a significant role in the new synergy in old Jackson Hole. They also referenced the addition of their 525 seat theater to feature dance and musical performances. This Performing Arts Pavillion opened in March 2007 and compliments their already impressive Center for Arts complex. They say it allows them more opportunites to bring in a wide variety of performances.
What does this mean to Steamboat and our hopes of a local Theater?
The Jackson Hole Performing Arts Pavillion is referenced elsewhere as being wildly successful on its own, and a huge asset to the Center for Arts complex. The theater is roughly the same capacity (525 seats) as the Friends of the Chief's proposed Chief Theater. The space in Steamboat also proposes to offer rehearsal space and a formal lobby, which is also similar to the Jackson Hole theater.
We hope stories like these continue to appear and provide evidence of success that will help cement the financial viability of such a venture here in Steamboat Springs!
The Theater is briefly referenced on PAGE 8.
Steamboat Springs — After eight months of incubation, the community-driven bid to purchase the historic Chief Plaza Theater has yet to hatch, but proponent Jim Cook told a group of senior citizens Monday that he remains optimistic.
“I still think we’ll come to agreement,” Friends of the Chief spokesman Cook said.
Jon Sanders, of Ski Town Commercial, confirmed Monday that his client, theater owner Michael Barry, still is committed to making the deal with Friends of the Chief work.
The lease of current tenant Carmike Cinemas is up in 2012.
Sanders said there has been a meaningful exchange of thoughts between himself and Friends of the Chief member Valerie Stafford within the past 60 days.
The purchase, remodeling and conversion of the historic movie theater into a single-screen room, that also could host 450 people for community arts and touring musicians performances, is expected to cost $6 million to 8 million. Cook said Friends of the Chief hopes to raise $2 million to 3 million and use a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which is tailored toward small cities seeking to acquire cultural facilities, to leverage the purchase.
Cook gave 15 seniors citizens gathered for lunch at the Steamboat Springs Community Center a detailed vision of what the remodeled theater might someday look like, including stage dimensions and a VIP area on the balcony level. He also showed schematics by local architect Bill Rangitsch that reveal a creative design allowing the elevated main seating floor to be temporarily leveled and the seats removed in order to accommodate special events such as wedding receptions.
The purchase of the Chief was contracted in August 2010 and fell out of contract in November 2010.
In the meantime, Cook said that the documents that would make Friends of the Chief a Colorado 501(c)(3) have been prepared by attorney Ward Van Scoyk and that the only document needed to put the favorable terms of a USDA loan in place is a feasibility study.
Short of that feasibility study, Cook said, Friends of the Chief members have talked with small community theater operators across the country and have been reassured that their business plan could work. The fiscal foundation of the theater would rely significantly on attracting touring performance groups to drive ticket sales, he said. A cafe in the front lobby would be open seven days a week to generate steady revenues.
“It turns out 450 seats is the magic number for bringing in touring groups,” Cook said Monday. He added that he thinks Friends of the Chief can host community productions at no fee.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
On Sunday September 12, 2010 - an all day music festival marked the first fundraising event for the 2011 Free Summer Concert Series. As the concert series continues to be extremely popular and well attended in our community, it is no surprise that the supporters turned out in numbers for Sunday's event. Hosted by the Sweetwater Grill, the event featured a line-up of local bands, a grassy space for kids to run and an evening of fun & food for the adults who chatted with old friends, mingled in the tents and bid on various auction items provided by our community businesses.
The Friends of the Chief attended to help support and pass out stickers to spread the word about the latest happenings with the theater project. Overall the vibe was very positive!
Arts administrator and live-theater fan Ben Cameron looks at the state of the live arts -- asking: How can the magic of live theater, live music, live dance compete with the always-on Internet? At TEDxYYC, he offers a bold look forward.
Our View: Chief plan shows promise
September 1, 2010
by Editorial Board
The future of the Chief Plaza Theater is starting to take on a solid form.
On Friday, the Friends of the Chief group announced that it placed the downtown Steamboat Springs movie theater under a purchase contract with plans to make it a performing arts venue. The terms were withheld, but the purchase and renovation cost has been estimated at close to $9 million.
Many details about the financing have yet to be negotiated, but early plans indicate that the Chief Cultural Center for the Performing Arts would be a cultural venue that would seat as many as 470 people. Although we acknowledge concerns that the Chief stage wouldn’t be large enough to suit major dramatic productions, we’re excited about the variety of entertainment it could house, and we hope it’s an inclusive venue that can serve many audiences.
Also, such a venue presents a unique opportunity to draw people downtown to attend shows, as well as shop and dine. We don’t want to discount the contribution the movie theater makes in this regard, but a performing arts center with ever-changing offerings would add a different kind of vibrancy and possibly draw a larger group of patrons.
But as the Friends of the Chief makes plans, we want to make sure the group has plenty of time to answer questions central to making this venue a success. Any changes would be years away: Carmike Cinemas, which operates the movie theater, has a lease that’s valid into 2012.
That leaves plenty of time for the discussion of issues and creation of a program to make the theater self-sustaining.
It’s essential for the group to look at return on investment and make sure the venue has an aggressive booking agent who can court attractive acts that draw people in, particularly during the busy summer and winter tourism seasons. There are plenty of examples in other Colorado towns — Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House comes to mind — the group could turn to for guidance.
We’re encouraged that Friends of the Chief already has installed expertise with members such as development heavyweight Jim Cook, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett, Towny Anderson of Historic Routt County and other sharp local minds. It’s been a truly grass-roots effort, started by locals who recognize the value of investing in the community.
The group has a Friends of the Chief fund set up through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, through which those who would like to can donate, and is working on getting nonprofit status, Anderson said. It continued its momentum from last week by meeting Tuesday to discuss fundraising, volunteers and structuring committees.
Two months ago, on June 27, we hailed the efforts of the Friends of the Chief as “a refreshing example of community interests uniting for a cause that could benefit the entire city.” In the brief period since, the group has made impressive progress. We hope it continues, and we look forward to seeing downtown thrive with a successful business plan for the Chief Cultural Center for the Performing Arts that provides dynamic, year-round programming that benefits everyone.
Theater Under Contract by Friends of the Chief Foundation!
A contract for purchase by Friends of the Chief Foundation has been accepted by the seller! Negotiations to continue based on raising the earnest money by the Sept 25th deadline and the final appraisal of the property. The Foundation is also working with local banks to create interim financing until the USDA loan can be completed early next year. Please contact us here if you have any interest in helping at this early level investment opportunity.
Friends of the Chief appeared in the paper twice this month already in a local article and editoral! Thanks for keeping the awareness alive! Read More Here
Steamboat Pilot & Today
August 27, 2010
by Tom Ross
Steamboat Springs — A community group working to create a downtown cultural venue took a major step in that direction this week.
A spokesman for Friends of the Chief confirmed Friday afternoon that the group has placed the Chief Plaza movie theater in downtown Steamboat Springs under a purchase contract.
“We’re very, very pleased about this,” Jim Cook said. “All of the members of our board will be kicking in for the short term to secure equity for a bridge loan” that would buy time for the community group to pursue a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan tailored to helping small communities acquire cultural centers.
Friends of the Chief member Towny Anderson said restoring the small multiplex to a cultural venue that would seat as many as 470 could establish a new gathering place for the community.
“It’s more than nostalgia,” Anderson said. “It’s like getting a piece of your Main Street back in community hands. It re-establishes what they call the village well.”
The new name of the property would be The Chief Cultural Center for the Performing Arts, Cook said.
The contracted purchase price is being withheld, but Cook previously acknowledged that longtime theater owner Michael Barry was asking for $2.87 million for the building. The Friends of the Chief would propose borrowing several million more to refurbish and return the theater to a single stage intended for a variety of cultural uses. The complete cost of acquiring and refurbishing the building has been estimated at $8.8 million.
“If everything worked out, we could take possession of the theater in 45 days,” Cook said. With the theater “next door to the Steamboat Art Museum, what I see is a cultural anchor to downtown.”
Even if the Friends of the Chief are able to use a bridge loan to close on the theater in the fall, it’s likely to be a couple of years before any work on the theater would begin, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said. She is part of the Friends group.
Carmike Cinemas’ lease on the theater is valid into 2012, she said.
“That gives us more time for planning and raising funds,” Barnett said.
The Carmike lease also provides $200,000 in income to cover costs associated with taking plans for the refurbishing to the next level, Cook said.
Bridge to a loan
Friends of the Chief has apundefinedproached all of the local banks to determine whether they would be interested in forming a consortium to loan funds for the bridge loan in proportion to their market share in the community, Cook said.
He’s hopeful that one or two large benefactors would help the Friends get over the hump on the down payment for the bridge loan so the board could quickly focus its efforts on securing the USDA loan.
The loan would come from a program tailored for communities of fewer than 15,000 people seeking to acquire a cultural facility, Cook said. The Friends are working with the Delta office of the USDA on the financing, which would allow as long as a 40-year term with interest rates locked in at the prime rate, he said.
Cook said the group’s pro forma suggests that it could leverage $4 million of the total project. However, at the recommendation of USDA advisers, they will take it in two steps, closing one loan to buy the property and a second for the construction phase.
Cook has been articulating his vision of transforming downtown Steamboat into an entertainment district for more than five years.
Barnett and Anderson share that vision.
Barnett recalled that in 2006, when the new Wildhorse Stadium Cinema was being planned for its location near Central Park Plaza, it raised concerns in the downtown business district.
“We were really, really afraid that we were going to lose the theater back then,” Barnett said.
It gives people a reason to go downtown and perhaps shop and dine also.
“You have to have some reason to get out of your car,” Barnett said. “People aren’t always shopping.”
Anderson said the Chief Cultural Center has the potential to fill a void in downtown Steamboat.
“Right now, there’s a gap between 5 p.m. and 9 or 10 p.m. when the Old Town Pub and Ghost Ranch (Saloon) come alive,” he said.
There is a national movement toward revitalizing downtown entertainment and cultural opportunities by reclaiming old theaters.
“We’re building a lot of momentum toward that paradigm,” Anderson said.
Friends of The Chief Gathering Momentum
August 2010 Update - Committees are working toward a purchase of the property. Recent news and possible loan programs have made that possibility a reality for the near future.
The Friends of the Chief also appear this month in the Steamboat Magazine Summer 2010 issue. The article reviews the goals and plans of the group and brings new attention to our cause! Don't forget to grab a copy!
Aspen Daily News
Friday, July 30, 2010
TRAVERSE CITY\ Mich.
For generations, Americans viewed films in stately, single-screen theaters that were pillars of city business districts — an experience that faded with the rise of suburban multiplexes and the decline of downtowns. Michael Moore wants to bring those theaters back. The Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker has a plan to refurbish or prop up downtown movie houses in his home state of Michigan — and eventually nationwide.
Such efforts have been made before. But Moore’s approach has a twist, mod eled on the successful resurrectiOn of the State Theatre in Traverse City, his adopt ed hometown in northern Michigan.
The way to rescue downtown movie houses, Moore says, is to run them as nonprofit ventures staffed mostly with volunteers. That slashes costs and gives the community a stake in the theater’s survival, he says. Moore plans to provide grants and training to theater operators who use those methods.
The money would come from a fund he’s creating with his rebate from a state film tax credit earned by producing his documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” in Michigan. He expects the refund to total about $1 million. “One of our goals is to create an economic boost, particularly in struggling downtown areas,” he told The Associated Press this week during the annual Traverse City Film Festival, which he and others established six years ago.
“Another is to save the art of cinema and encourage great films to be made.” The Flint native moved to the Traverse City area in 2003 and took an in terest in the State Theatre on the resort town’s main street. Opened in 1916, it had become a shuttered relic. “I just felt bad every time I passed it,” Moore said.
His team made the State the primary venue for the initial film fest. Moore eventually convinced the owner to hand over the $1.2 million facility for free so it could àperate full-time as a nonprofit. It began doing so in Noveniber 2007, after a dramatic facelift. Its high, black ened ceiling sparkles with tiny lights resembling a starry sky.
Thick draperies adorn the walls. The 534 seats are wide and comfortable; the sound system is state-of-the-art; the screen is 50 feet wide. There’s even an old-style organ. The theater has paid employees, but volunteers handle the -box office, con cessions and ushering. An adult ticket for the typical movie costs $8; a large popcorn and soft drink combo is $7.
Because of a contractual hitch, the State can’t show many first-run movies. Its screenings consist largely of arthouse fare: documentaries, foreign films,classics, along with second releases of newer films. Yet it’s one of the nation’s top-grossing theaters and something of a community center, with opera broadcasts and sporting events.
“The State Theatre, with its bright lights of the marquee, acts as a sort of beacon for the downtown area,” said Steve Fairbanks, manager of Red Ginger, a restaurant next to the theater. “There’s buzz and energy coming off that building.” Skeptics might question how aging, single-screen theaters can compete with glitzy multiplexes where audiences watch the “Transformers” and “Twilight Saga” films in stadium-style seating.
But Moore says the State Theatre experience shows there’s a hunger for high-quality films viewed in pleasant surroundings with reasonable prices for admission and popcorn. The multiplexes, he says, put style over substance.
“This attitude that some in Hollywood have, that people in the flyover states don’t want to see documentaries, they don’t want to read subtitles, we’re proving untrue,” Moore said. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ is the State Theatre’s top-grossing film for the first half of the year, despite being a foreign film, despite having a complicated plot and subtitles.”
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Sunday June 27, 2010
Our View: Hail to the Chief effort
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221
A local group’s hope of acquiring and renovating the Chief Plaza Theater in downtown Steamboat Springs is a refreshing example of community interests uniting for a cause that could benefit the entire city. Friends of the Chief last week presented its goal of purchasing the aging downtown landmark and rehabilitating it into a performing arts venue. Although there have been other proposals for new Steamboat Springs performing arts venues in recent years, this one might be the most promising.
Importantly, the Chief Plaza proposal appears to unite a variety of interest groups — those representing performing and cultural arts, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs and historic preservation advocates among them. It’s easy to see why the downtown business community would get behind an effort to revitalize a key building in the heart of Lincoln Avenue, particularly if that facility became a popular entertainment venue. A renovated Chief also would provide something Steamboat lacks: a multiuse arts venue that will accommodate cultural and artistic activities in downtown while maintaining historic aesthetics.
We’re struck by how different this undertaking is from other recent downtown projects. The past few years have brought tremendous change to Lincoln Avenue — specifically the construction of several large-scale, mixed-use buildings. Whether you like those additions to downtown — and we generally do — it’s encouraging to see a local effort to bring an important historic structure back to relevance. Most residents know the Chief Plaza Theater has long been a dated movie theater in desperate need of renovation. Many don’t know that the Chief dates back to the 1920s and has a rich history that reflects the growth of Steamboat Springs throughout the decades.
And the proposal is about more than restoring the historical structure and use of the building. It’s also about continuing to create vitality in Steamboat’s main commercial district. Such a venue would drive traffic to downtown, increasing customer spending and resulting in more sales tax dollars entering the city’s coffers. But although the plans hold promise, significant hurdles remain. The listing price on the building is nearly $2.9 million, and Friends of the Chief estimates it would take another $6 million or so to complete the extensive remodel.
Organizers are looking at a variety of funding methods, but there’s no question private donors would be needed no matter how many grants or tax credits the group could secure. Ownership structure and facility management also are key unknown components to the plan.
Regardless of how Friends of the Chief structures potential ownership and management operations, it’s worth pointing out that a project like this can’t be all things to all people. For example, plans for the interior of the building are limited by the structure’s footprint.
But what is clear is that the Chief Plaza Theater is for sale, it’s historic and it has the potential to be transformed back into a relevant, vibrant downtown entertainment venue. We think Friends of the Chief is pursuing a worthy effort and hope the entire community will enjoy and benefit from the fruits of its labor for years to come.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Praise, doubts mix at meeting about Steamboat's Chief theater Proposal to renovate Chief elicits excitement, financial questions
By Mike Lawrence
Public reaction Wednesday night to a proposed renovation of the Chief Plaza Theater was a mixture of excitement, hope and concern about the project’s costs and fundraising needs during an economic recession.
“I think it’s an intriguing possibility,” Karolynn Lestrud said about plans to turn the downtown theater into a single-stage performing arts venue. “It’s a very difficult time economically for the community.”
A group of community members calling itself Friends of the Chief presented its plan and financial projections to a large audience that nearly filled the seats at Centennial Hall.
Developer and group member Jim Cook said Friends of the Chief has a funding gap of about $3.5 million, including $500,000 that the group hopes to raise from the community. That’s a big financial hurdle, but Wednesday’s meeting showed that the idea of a new downtown performing arts venue is drawing interest from the local arts community.
Lestrud is a member of the board of directors for Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp. Also in attendance Wednesday was Jack Dysart, chairman of the board of directors for Emerald City Opera.
Dysart said he would take the renovation plans to that board for further input. “We’re very interested in this,” he said about the project, calling it another example of growing interest in the arts. “In the last four years … it seems like the arts community has blossomed in Steamboat.”
Lock McShane, who moved to Steamboat in 1978 and has been involved in local theater for years, looked at conceptual renderings of the proposed Chief renovation. “I like the whole idea, but we have to figure out if it can actually fly,” McShane said, citing the relatively narrow shape of the building. But McShane called the renovation a good idea. “We need another space besides the (Steamboat Springs) High School auditorium where we can do something like this,” he said.
Plans for the Chief renovation are conceptual, and no sale of the building has been finalized. Cook said the project’s total cost, including building acquisition, renovations, operating costs and more, is about $8.8 million. Friends of the Chief member Towny Anderson reiterated plans Wednesday for a mix of financing avenues including historic preservation grants, tax-exempt financing for nonprofit groups and local fundraising efforts.
Michael Barry has owned the Chief Plaza Theater since 1970. He placed it on the market late last year. Cook has said the asking price is $2.87 million. In March, Bill Rangitsch of Steamboat Architectural Group displayed renovation plans that include about 370 removable seats on the theater’s main level, a 40-foot-deep stage, a floor that could be flattened or sloped according to the event, an upper mezzanine with about 100 more seats, two bar areas, a ticketing office, green room space and an upper-level deck overlooking Lincoln Avenue.
Steamboat resident Bill Moser said he’d be willing to support the project, citing its potential to add vitality downtown. “If you pull this off, it would be an incredible help to the sense of community,” Moser said. Anderson said the next steps for Friends of the Chief include establishing an ownership structure, securing financing and raising funds. “Our go, no-go is the fall,” Anderson said. “We hope to acquire the building by November or the end of the year.”
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Public meeting to focus on renovating Steamboat's Chief Plaza Theater
By Mike Lawrence
A group of community members seeking to purchase and renovate downtown Steamboat’s Chief Plaza Theater faces a $3.5 million fundraising hurdle. They’ll make their pitch to the community tonight.
Tonight’s public presentation about the future of the theater is intended to assess the community’s willingness to turn the space into a single-stage performing arts venue — and to help fund the multi-million dollar project.
The group, which calls itself Friends of the Chief, is leading tonight’s presentation. Its plans represent a possible solution to ongoing discussions about a new performing arts venue in Steamboat Springs.
Those discussions accelerated in spring 2008 when Steamboat Mountain Theater closed before the demolition of Ski Time Square. Mainstreet Steamboat Springs’ Tracy Barnett is a member of Friends of the Chief. She stressed that renovation and fundraising plans are “still conceptual” — and the group has to do significant fundraising before buying the theater — but said the proposed new use for the Chief makes sense on several fronts.
“There’s a bunch of people that would love to save the theater. There’s a bunch of people who don’t have performing arts space,” she said. “Mainstreet’s emphasis is because of the building being a historic building and its historic use.
The benefit it would have for downtown is why we are involved.” Michael Barry has owned the Chief Plaza Theater since 1970. He placed it on the market late last year. Developer Jim Cook said the asking price is $2.87 million. Cook said Friends of the Chief’s total project cost, including building acquisition, renovations, operating costs and more, is about $8.8 million. He provided spreadsheets showing annual revenue potential from a renovated Chief Plaza Theater — based on itemized cash flow projections — of about $200,000.
Those revenues could allow financing of about $4 million in a 40-year bond, according to Cook. He said Friends of the Chief would have to raise about $3.5 million. “But I think what we’ll need from the community as a whole is going to be $500,000,” Cook said Tuesday. “I think there’s a way we can generate the $3 million.” Funding ideas That generation includes a mix of historic preservation grants, tax-exempt financing for nonprofit groups, local fundraising efforts and other financing ideas.
Towny Anderson, also of Mainstreet, said if the Chief can be made eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and qualify for certified rehabilitation, a federal tax credit would give investors 20 cents on every dollar invested. Anderson said that could be combined with federal energy efficiency tax credits and a 20 percent state tax credit for historic rehabilitation.
A longtime advocate for historic preservation, Anderson added that part of the theater renovation project would be “restoring the Chief to … its heyday, which was 1936 to 1962.” Cook said tonight’s meeting is “going to give people an idea of what kind of funding we’re going to have to go out and do as a community.”
Friends of the Chief includes Cook; Anderson; Barnett; Jon Sanders, of Ski Town Commercial Real Estate; Valerie Stafford, of the Steamboat Dance Theatre; and Bill Rangitsch, of Steamboat Architectural Group. Barnett said other members of the local performing arts community also are involved. Sanders is Barry’s local representative.
No sale of the Chief Plaza Theater has been finalized. In March, Rangitsch displayed renovation plans that include about 370 removable seats on the theater’s main level, a 40-foot-deep stage, a floor that could be flattened or sloped according to the event, an upper mezzanine with about 100 more seats, two bar areas, a ticketing office, green room space and an upper-level deck overlooking Lincoln Avenue.
Rangitsch said removing the seats on the main level could allow for a capacity of about 750 people. Cook said Rangitsch will present his designs and new research about stage sizes at tonight’s meeting. “I think Bill’s presentation will be very good because it really shows the difference in stage areas between the various venues we have in town,” Cook said. “He’s done an interesting analysis of that, and I think it will surprise a lot of people.”
The Chief Plaza building includes the four-plex movie theater and two retail stores — Summit Shades and Blossom, which sells women’s clothing and gift items. The two stores total 1,480 square feet, and the movie theater is 5,520 square feet. Barnett said gauging public reaction is a key component of tonight’s event. “This is not anywhere cast in stone, at all. We don’t even know totally if it’s fiscally feasible to do this,” Barnett said. “But if there isn’t buy-in from the community, there’s no point in moving forward.”
Wednesday March 31, 2010
Group forming nonprofit to try to purchase, renovate Steamboat theater
By Mike Lawrence
A group of local movers and shakers is forming a nonprofit organization with the intent of purchasing the Chief Plaza Theater and renovating it into a single-stage performing arts venue downtown.
Developer Jim Cook; Jon Sanders, of Ski Town Commercial Real Estate; Tracy Barnett and Towny Anderson, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs; Valerie Stafford, of the Steamboat Dance Theatre; and Bill Rangitsch, of Steamboat Architectural Group, met Tuesday morning to talk about how to move forward with their plans. Sanders is the local representative of Michael Barry, who has owned the Chief Plaza Theater in the 800 block of Lincoln Avenue since 1970.
No sale of the building has been finalized, and Sanders said Monday he is “in detailed conversations with some other folks” about the location, which Barry placed on the market late last year.
But the group hopes to leverage a mix of historical preservation grants, tax-exempt financing for nonprofit groups, local fundraising efforts and other financial ideas into a purchase and renovation of the theater. Cook said the venue could host local, regional and national acts and be a “cultural anchor for downtown,” especially with the Steamboat Art Museum next door.
The group’s hurdles are as large as its aspirations. Rangitsch said the effort could have a total price tag of about $5 million, largely because the aging Chief Plaza would need large-scale renovations including the removal of interior walls and likely a new roof. “Band-Aids don’t really help on a project like this,” Rangitsch said.
On Tuesday morning in his office in the Chieftain Building on Fourth Street, Rangitsch displayed renovation plans that include about 370 removable seats on the main level, a 40-foot-deep stage, a floor that could be flattened or sloped according to the event, an upper mezzanine with about 100 more seats, two bar areas, a ticketing office, green room space, an upper-level deck overlooking Lincoln Avenue, and more. Rangitsch said removing the seats on the main level could allow for a capacity of about 750 people.
Stafford said local groups and events such as Literary Sojourn, Pirate Theatre, Bust of Steamboat and Steamboat Dance Theatre potentially could use the venue, which also could host anything from seminars and conferences to wedding receptions. “There’s a lot of need right here — not to mention what you could bring in from outside,” Stafford said.
Sanders has said the original single-stage theater in the Chief Plaza building, once called the Village Theater, held about 600 people. Conversations about creating a new performing arts venue in Steamboat accelerated in spring 2008, when Steamboat Mountain Theater closed before the demolition of Ski Time Square. Current local performing arts venues include Strings Music Pavilion, the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium and, on a smaller scale, the Depot Art Center.
The Ghost Ranch Saloon opened last year and provides another mid-sized downtown venue for live music. Other bars and restaurants host musicians, as well. Strings Music Festival Executive Director Kay Clagett said she didn’t want to comment Tuesday about the idea of a downtown performing arts venue because she did not know enough about the group’s proposal.
David Arthur, entertainment director for the Ghost Ranch, said “competition in the workplace is what makes us all do our job better.” “Ultimately, I think that Steamboat as a city can only benefit from having multiple places to go see shows,” Arthur said. “Personally speaking, all I can do is do my job and try to bring the best live entertainment to Steamboat. … It might be competition, I don’t know — it depends on what they’re trying to do. We’ll see what happens.”
The Chief Plaza building includes the four-plex movie theater and two retail stores — Summit Shades and Blossom, which sells women’s clothing and gift items. The two stores total 1,480 square feet, and the movie theater is 5,520 square feet, Sanders said. Sanders said in November that Carmike Cinemas had about three years left on its lease.
Summit Shades had nearly four years left and Blossom had about one year, he said at that time. The group emphasized that the goal of renovating the Chief Plaza would not be to compete with Strings or other venues, but rather to meet a community need downtown. “It would build more of a presence for the arts in town,” Stafford said.
Cook said the group’s next steps include solidifying revenue streams and operating costs and drafting a contract for the purchase. He said the group already has discussed the idea with city planning staff and, if all the variables fall into place, could present plans to the city by Sept. 1.