The Brookland Newton Theater, Northeast Washington's only movie theater, may have to close its doors if its community shareholders aren't able to raise $3,000 in emergency funds to cover operating expenses.
Last Saturday 15 people, representatives of the 25 area families who lease the theater, met to plan a benefit for Sunday, Oct. 1, to raise money to keep the theater open, and to discuss ways of developing a regular clientele.
The theater, located at 15th and Newton streets, NE, was reopened in July 1977 after being vacant for about six years.
The 25 families who formed the Brookland Community Corporation have a seven-year lease with an exclusive option to buy the theater within that period. The lease expires in August 1984.
"If we don't buy the theater within that time we'll lose all the money we've invested," said Doug Daiss, president of the group and vice president of the Brookland Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The families have invested almost $50,000 in the venture.
"At this point we're not meeting expenses. We would have to have a gradual increase" in income for the building to pay for itself, he said.
The theater shows family and general interest films and occasional children's matinees and is open seven days a week. Admission is $1.50 for children and $2.50 for adults.
"The thrust of this benefit is to get people to feel a sense of community about this theater, to develop a regular clientele and raise $3,000 in emergency money to keep it open," said Ron Benjamin, a neighborhood resident.
After the 560-seat theater was acquired from Catholic University last year, "we had a flurry of business but it slacked off last October," Daiss said.
"We would like Catholic University's music school to get involved with the theater. We're actively soliciting people to use it. We have a stage and an orchestra pit," he said. "We'd pretty much just charge enough to defray expenses."
Mozelle Watkins, chairman of the local ANC, said "The ANC is participating in this matter. We're hoping the theater will improve the neighborhood and get people to have pride in it."
Anna Cole, a shareholder and Brookland resident for 17 years said, "We're all pushing the theater." She said she was getting young people to do posters and soliciting churches and bands to sponsor programs at the facility.
"We have support from the ANC and the Upper Northeast Merchants Association, but we just aren't able to get people to come out to the movies," Daiss said. "The neighborhood doesn't want to see it vacant again or razed or turned into a church."
He blames the lack of community support for the theater on "the antiquated concept of business in the area."
"There's no reason why Northeast can't have modern facilities. People don't patronize local businesses," he said, pointing out that Brookland residents shop at suburban Prince George's County stores.
The Brookland Newton, a classic example of the art deco style that was built in the 1930s, stopped showing movies in the early 1960s. Catholic University used it from 1967 to 1971, but it was vacant for several years until the residents leased it.
The Oct. 1 benefit will be held at 2 p.m. at the theater. The Blue Sky Puppet Theater Band and Show will perform and a movie will be shown.
Tickets are $12 for a family of two adults and three children or $5 for adults and $1.50 for children. They will be available at the door on Oct. 1, at the theater during regular performances, or at Stanley's 5 & 10 Cent Store, 3520 12th St., NE.
For more information, Call 526-8282 or 529-2179.