Community forum on Lincoln Theater's future set for Wednesday as shuttered cinema goes up for sale soon
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The Lincoln Theater’s marquee shows its final run of movies before it was closed for good March 2. The downtown Port Angeles landmark likely goes up for sale later this month. —Peninsula Daily News photo

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — When the “Lincoln Theater Public Forum” post went up on the Port Angeles Arts Council's Facebook page, so did the hits and comments.

“Fifteen hundred people saw the post. We had about 50 comments and 228 'likes,' ” said Amy McIntyre, president of the nonprofit Arts Council, a nongovernmental organization devoted to promoting art projects in the public sphere.

The council will hold the forum, with local artist and teacher Cathy Haight facilitating, at Studio Bob, 118 E. Front St., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. It's to be a brainstorming session about the future of the Lincoln, the 98-year-old movie house at 132 E. First St. The cinema closed its doors March 2.

The Arts Council does not have a plan for the theater, McIntyre said. It does have a desire to bring people together to talk. Wednesday's forum will be followed by a “results meeting,” she added, at 6 p.m. June 4 at Studio Bob.

On Facebook and on the street, McIntyre has heard numerous Port Angeles residents express fervent hopes of somehow saving the Lincoln.

Sun Basin Theatres, its Wenatchee-based owner, opted to close the cinema instead of spending some $200,000 to convert its three screens to digital technology.

This week Dan Gase, a Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty agent and Port Angeles City Council member, said he's been in discussions with Sun Basin about listing the property for sale.

“We should have it on the market in the next couple of weeks,” Gase said.

Total assessed value of the property is $230,901, while Sun Basin general manager Bryan Cook said the theater will be listed for $259,000 — with a non-compete clause.

“Whoever we sell or lease the building to will have a non-compete [agreement],” to show no first-run movies, Cook said Monday.

The new operator could run classic films and second-run features, “released four months ago or 40 years ago,” so the Lincoln wouldn't compete with Sun Basin's Deer Park Cinema, the multiplex off U.S. Highway 101 just east of Port Angeles.

The Lincoln “would be nice as a community center, [for] live performances . . . and old movies,” added Cook.

Gase said he's looking forward to attending Wednesday's public forum, even if a concrete plan is yet to be made.

“A lot of times, somebody will have an idea that's not workable,” he believes, “but that will be a catalyst for an idea that will be workable.”

In recent years, Port Angeles and Sequim residents have gone to Rocky Friedman, owner of the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, to talk about opening an art movie house similar to the Rose in Clallam County. But Friedman didn't want to comment on the possibilities for the Lincoln.

“I hope they pull it off,” was all he would say Monday, though it's not clear who “they” might be.

The Peninsula Daily News' articles about the Lincoln closure drew a spate of comments back in February and March.

Some readers expressed interest in a movie theater-restaurant combination like the Starlight Room, the theater upstairs from the Silverwater Cafe in Port Townsend.

Friedman opened it last September as an addition to the Rose's two screens, which he converted to digital after raising more than $200,000 in donations from Rose patrons in 2012.

Another possibility could be running the Lincoln Theater as a nonprofit organization like Tacoma's Grand Cinema.

Marketing director Zach Powers said the Grand, marking its 17th anniversary this month, has grown steadily in attendance, added its fourth screen in 2009 and hosts the Tacoma Film Festival each year.

The Grand converted to digital in November, to the tune of $400,000, Powers said.

The cinema shows first-run movies, specializes in independent films, employs a paid house manager and projectionist, and has a crew of volunteers to take tickets and sell popcorn.

Another revenue stream comes through memberships: $45 yearly for a single, $80 for a couple.

“We're very much an arts nonprofit,” like a museum or playhouse, Powers said.

“The Grand is a hip, trendy thing, but our base is not young people. It's folks over 60,” he added.

The Port Angeles Arts Council president, for her part, is urging people of various ages to think big.

In anticipation of Wednesday's forum, McIntyre posted a Gloria Steinem quotation on the council's Facebook page: “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 05. 2014 7:23PM
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