denis redesign

Seems everyone is asking, “What’s going on with the Denis Theater?” Well, there’s a new plan on the horizon and, if fundraising proceeds as planned, the Denis Theatre Foundation will start construction in October.

The foundation, formed in 2008, originally planned to raise $4.5 million for a two-phase renovation project. Phase one, estimated to cost $2.5 million, included purchasing the theater, renovating the concession area and the larger of the theater’s two second floor theaters (the Encore), updating the HVAC system and adding an elevator to make the theater ADA accessible. Once completed and open to the public, the foundation would move into the second phase, raising additional money to renovate the two first floor theaters.

In 2010, the foundation signed a $668,750 mortgage on the theater. But after reviewing the plans, the foundation’s board decided to make some modifications—renovate the first floor theaters first and add a learning center/screening room so more movies can be screened and events held. The plan would cut costs as no elevator would be needed; the first floor theaters will be accessible via a ramp.

Renovations to the second floor Encore Theater will be shelved for the time being, and the two first floor theaters will be updated and remodeled—one with 100 seats and the other with 200. The foundation also plans to install a removable stage area in at least one of the theaters for panel discussions and small musical performances.

In addition, a 40-seat learning center/screening room will be added for film groups, after-school programs, meetings, receptions and rentals. The theater also will include a lounge, a visual arts area and concession stand, the latter to be completed thanks to a $100,000 donation by Ellie Hall in memory of her late husband, Brian. Total renovation costs are estimated at $1.8 million.

To complete the new plan, the foundation needs to raise $1 million and has set December 31, 2014, as the deadline to do so. The foundation currently has $800,000 in funds and has begun work on repairing 70-year-old theater’s roof. Work on the interior will begin when $750,000 of the $1 million has been raised.

To make a donation (naming rights opportunities are available), contact 412-668-0737.

Artwork by Sandra Ward