Curtain closes on Princess Theater, for now
The Princess movie theater closed Nov. 25 but it will not remain a sleeping beauty for long. The City of Oxford officials expect the theater will reopen after a transition period, according to Douglas Elliott, city manager, and Alan Kyger, economic development director for the City of Oxford.
According to emails sent by Elliott to the Oxford City Council, The Princess may be donated to the City of Oxford but as of Thursday afternoon other parties expressed interest in purchasing the theater from its current owner, Aliance Entertainment and Great Escape Theatres. City Council will discuss a possible resolution to accept a donation in its next meeting on Dec. 4.
Aliance Entertainment and Great Escape Theatres is based in New Albany, Ind. According to statement and online page, Aliance Entertainment focuses on providing movie theaters for rural and smaller communities and has owned The Princess since May 2000.
"We decided to close [The Princess]," David Poland, vice president of operations for Aliance Entertainment, said. "We certainly thank everyone in Oxford, especially the students, for their support over the years."
Elliott said the transition plan is for Oxford to own The Princess after it is donated to the city by Aliance Entertainment and Great Escape Theatres. His goal is to then lease it to a company or individual that will run the theater. After speaking to Poland, Elliott said he is interested in accepting the donation from The Princess' former owner.
"Tuesday night we have a council meeting and council will be considering a resolution authorizing the city manager to accept this donation," Elliott said. "I have said that if they do that and if indeed the Great Escapes Theatres donated The Princess to the city, my goal will be to work with the staff to find an individual or company or organization to lease The Princess to and continue its operation as a local movie theater showing first run pictures."
The Princess is in need of heating repairs and movie projector replacements in order for it to reopen and show first run movies, according to Elliot. Two theater rooms need heating repairs that are estimated to cost $25,000 according to information Elliott received from Aliance Entertainment. In addition, The Princess needs to upgrade the projectors from 35 mm film to digital projectors. Elliot said this could cost between $25,000 - $60,000 per projector.
"One concern I have is I don't want to keep the theater closed very long because when you basically turn the heat off in buildings and leave them unoccupied they decline rapidly," Elliott said. "Assuming that the city [may take] possession of The Princess Theater before the end of the calendar year, we will quickly need to get it open...I would like to do that as a movie theater, leasing that to an individual or organization so we can show movies, have some revenue, make the needed repairs and pay the bills. The city will not be funding the theater operation. ... The city will maintain ownership of the building so that we can control the use of the site there."
Many community members have rallied behind The Princess and joined the Facebook fan page 'Save the Princess Theater.' More than 900 people have 'liked' the page since its creation Tuesday. David Prytherch, chair of the Oxford Planning Commission, created the Facebook page and hopes to see Princess reopened.
"I think in the short term it is really sad news for Oxford," Prytherch said. "I think that there is an opportunity to not only save The Princess but to remake it so that it is potentially better."
Prytherch said he also believes it will take creativity and a community effort to reopen the small theater. On the Facebook page, he suggested creating a non-profit group to support the theater.
"Oxford is a small town and everyone plays a role in Oxford." Prytherch said. "If Oxford wants to save its movie theater it will take everyone. I am happy to be a part of community of students and residents who work together on things like this."
Miami University junior CJ Spaulding has lived in Oxford her entire life and said The Princess adds character to Uptown Oxford.
"I definitely want The Princess to remain in Oxford," Spaulding said. "It has been around for a very long time. It is just something else to do in town... I know it means a lot to the little kids, especially when new movies come out because parents do not have to take them as far."
The Princess Theater has a long history in Oxford, Ohio.
It was first opened Sept. 11, 1911 by William E. Keene and was originally called the New Oxford Theater.
Keene and his son Ed Keene along with Wilmington Amusement Co. owned the theater.
In the 1950s, Charles A. Williams owned the theater and changed its name to the Talawanda Theater.
It was not until The Talawanda Theater closed and was leased by Film Classics, Inc. that it was renamed The Princess.
When The Princess opened in 1982 it was renovated and received new equipment.
The theater previously sat nearly 400 but was renovated with wider aisles and a staggered seating formation to seat only 180, according to an archived story by The Oxford Press.
The Oxford Press archived story states that when The Princess first opened admission started out as only $2.
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