Most Leesburg town officials and members of local arts groups agree on this: Someday the Tally Ho movie theater on Market Street should become a performing arts center.

But no one--yet--seems eager or willing to step to the plate to finance such a venture.

During the past year, the owners of the 300-seat movie theater, Regal Cinemas, have talked about selling it, according to Leesburg officials. Now, according to Leesburg Mayor James E. Clem, they are looking for a serious buyer.

Last week, Clem and John Henry King, head of the town's economic development office, toured the movie theater with its general manager, Charles T. West. Officials at Regal Cinemas could not be reached for comment.

Leaders of local arts groups said they would support--at least in spirit and in theory--turning the movie theater into an arts center. But many said it would take substantial and costly renovations to make it work--with dressing rooms, backstage areas, lighting and sound systems. The building has remained largely unchanged since it opened as a movie theater.

"It's feasible, but there would have to be some adjustments made to it," said Teresa Crane, president of the Loudoun Arts Council. "These intimate theaters are great, and Leesburg doesn't have one."

But Crane cautioned that a larger theater with at least 1,000 seats may be needed in Loudoun County, instead of a small venue similar in size to the new one being built at Franklin Park, according to a 1997 feasibility study conducted by her group.

Clem said he will meet with arts representatives in the coming weeks to discuss possible joint partnerships between the town and private entities to buy the theater.