The Penn Theater in downtown Butler could see a rebirth a lot quicker than most thought.
According to Penn Theater Performance Company President Dane Winkler, the group is in talks with the owner of the building, the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Butler, and could have a lease worked out and signed in the next few months. The goal of the nonprofit group is to have an occupancy permit by April 1, which would coincide with the theater’s 80th anniversary.
“The Redevelopment Authority is the owner of the building. We have a lawyer on our board who has been in talks with the solicitor for the Redevelopment Authority. They’re just finishing some minor details; they have a lease worked out. We’re going to sign that lease and we’re going to have an option to buy in that lease. We’re going to make some lease payments and we’re going to be able to sub-lease the two storefronts and then use that to generate some revenue,” Winkler said during a live interview Thursday on WISR 680AM.
The group has raised over $16,000 so far through events and fundraisers. The next planned fundraiser is a buffet dinner and comedy show at Element Café in downtown Butler scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13. BYOB tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the Holly Pointe Building and Element Cafe (both on Main Street in Butler), at the Butler Center for the Performing Arts on West Penn Street in Butler, or from one of the Penn Theater Performance Company board members.
Once the theater is open again, what can people expect?
Penn Theater Performance Company board member Buddy Thompson says there are lots of possibilities.
“Our plans are to take the upstairs theater, which is the smaller theater, and turn it into a black-box theater,” Thompson said. “People could rent it for small events, we could have comedians, jazz bands, a variety of things. It won’t be a single-purpose unit.”
In the main theater downstairs, people will be able to see much more than movies.
Rock bands, squonk opera, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, are some examples.
“It won’t necessarily be to show movies, but to use the movies to bring live theater to Butler,” he said. “Certainly we want the community to be able to use it, and we want to provide some education.”
The Penn Theater opened in the late 1930s, originally offering films to patrons as part of Butler’s thriving downtown business district.