Denis Theatre Foundation Completes Sales Agreement of Historic Mt. Lebanon Movie House

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pop City Media

Denis Theatre Interior

On August 31, a sales agreement was reached between the Denis Theatre Foundation, and the previous owners, D. and Neeta Raja for $668,750. The sales agreement is good cause for celebration, as the fate of the beloved historic Mt. Lebanon theater has hung in the balance since it closed in 2004.

Last October, the Denis Theatre Foundation entered into a purchase agreement with the Raja’s. Since then, their fundraising efforts brought in $100,000 from the Pittsburgh Foundation, many smaller funds, and a $155,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor. Anxiety built as the June 30 deadline approached to match the grant, but due to two extensions, the match was finally made, totaling the funds raised to $663,000.

Since executive director Anne Kemerer stepped down last month for personal family reasons, board member Jennifer Smokelin has been the acting executive director. The Foundation is currently seeking a permanent director. Smokelin is proud of the sales agreement, but acknowledges much work needs to be done.

“We have a capital campaign of $2.5 million to update and renovate the heating, air conditioning, the roof, and open one of the screens, the Encore Theater. Purchasing the theater is certainly a huge milestone, don’t get me wrong, but it is a portion of what it is that we need to do,” says Smokelin.

The Encore will be the first of three screens, and the Denis Theater Foundation expects it to be open by 2012, but they have a number of exciting plans for the theater’s future.

“We want to keep an homage to the original use of the theater, but also it’s going to be a community cultural center. So, it will show foreign language and documentary type film, but it will also have lecture venues, we envision poetry readings, and meeting rooms for cultural events, so it’s much more than the single screen movie theater that it was when it opened in 1938,” says Smokelin.

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Source: Jennifer Smokelin, acting executive director of the Denis Theatre Foundation
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy The Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon

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