Plans unveiled to reopen Ioka as 'art house theater'
The Exeter Theater Company revealed details of the proposed renovation to the downtown theater that went dark in December 2008.
“Our volunteer team has put in an amazing effort to get a solid set of draft plans together. We've also had the support of many professional advisers and firms contributing their donated services to get us estimates,” said project manager Carol Aten.
The plan is being spearheaded by the Exeter Theater Company, a nonprofit group charged with reviving the local landmark that was purchased for $600,000 at a foreclosure auction by Kensington Exeter LLC, a company owned by Kensington resident Alan Lewis.
Lewis, who is now reviewing the plans, sought the Ioka because he wanted to see it restored and eventually operated as a community-run theater. The theater group is looking to lease the Ioka from Lewis for $1 a year for 99 years.
Under the plan, the theater that first opened on Water Street in 1915 would be operated by a paid staff with a volunteer board of directors.
The theater group spent several weeks running a membership campaign earlier this year to prove to Lewis that there was strong community support. In the end, more than 1,400 members signed on to the project, donating an average of $100 each to help fund the renovations.
According to the plan, the renovated theater would feature two screens and two stages upstairs and downstairs with a full liquor license and light food served on all levels.
“Based on community feedback through 10 visioning sessions, the Ioka will be an art house theater showing regularly scheduled digital movie releases, independent film screenings, live music, stage performances, and special live events,” the theater group said in a statement.
The new Ioka would have an updated lobby, handicapped-accessible restrooms, a 350-seat updated theater with all new equipment, new balcony concessions area, downstairs function and performance space with an additional stage and screen, catering kitchen, and all-new dressing and green rooms, the group said.
“Our research results, demographic and survey studies, 5-year operating budget, conceptual floor plans, campaign and marketing plans have been sent to the owner. While these plans still require additional finishing touches, they provide sufficient basis for the Exeter Theater Company to conclude that the Ioka Theater can be operated in a financially sustainable manner,” the group said.
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