Historic Theater to re-open

The Historic Rex Allen Theater, closed a little more than one year, will re-open temporarily for a fundraising event this weekend.  Willcox Historic Theater Preservation (WHTP), Inc. plans to re-open it officially next month.

After months of negotiations, the Rex Allen Theater building will be sold to the Willcox Historic Theater Preservation Inc. (WHTP).

On Sept. 27, WHTP had made a counter-counter offer to the Rex Allen Museum (RAM) Board, effective through Oct. 3.

That offer stated the purchase price of $50,000, including equipment. The down payment would be $6,000, and the interest rate five-percent.

WHTP President Gayle Berry said Monday that the group had met a couple of times with the Museum Board “to work out the details and arrange the financial aspects” of the deal.

The Museum Board met on Friday to “confirm the arrangements,” she said.

A sticking point during the negotiations was the language regarding theater access through the front part of Windmill Park.

While WHTP wanted to have permanent, deeded access, the Museum Board would prefer to give them a “long term lease of egress and ingress,” RAM President Alfred Telles said earlier this month.

He explained that “the Museum owns all of those blocks” in the walkway between the Museum and the theater.

The solution, which the Museum Board proposed, and to which WHTP agreed, involves the removal of “Pedro’s Place,” a concession stand adjacent to the theater building.

Dismantling that building would leave a 10 foot strip adjacent to the theater building,” which gives us our own, permanent entryway,” Berry said Monday.

This means that movie tickets will not be sold from the kiosk at the front of Windmill Park. Instead, at least in the beginning, they will probably be sold and taken at the counter inside the theater, she said.

However, WHTP does have the long-term goal of restoring the front of the theater, including its original ticket booth for eventual use, Berry told the Range News.

The Museum Board has 90 days to remove “Pedro’s Place.”

“Once Pedro’s Place is dismantled, then we will close escrow,” said Berry, adding that until then, WHTP is temporarily leasing the theater.

On the Museum Board’s part, it is looking for volunteers to help with that project.

RAM Treasurer Gladys Olsen said, “Now that we are tearing down Pedro’s Place so the Theater group will have a walk way, the Museum needs some carpenters to build a storage and enclose an office space.”

“The Museum has the materials but needs volunteers to do building,” she told the Range News Monday.

Those wishing to help may call the Rex Allen Museum at (520) 384-4583.

A theater fundraiser is already planned for this Saturday, as winemaker and movie director Sam Pillsbury presents his film “Starlight Hotel” at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rex Allen Theater.

While this “family friendly” movie is free of charge, donations to help re-open the theater will be accepted.

Berry is asking for volunteers to help clean the theater between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 20.

“Willcox's Theater is now on its way to opening this fall,” she said Monday.

“With help to get the cleaning done, we will have a theater ready to get started showing movies.”

Volunteers are needed Saturday to help with cleaning, vacuuming, mopping, etc., and can sign up for a three-hour shift (9 a.m. to Noon, or Noon to 3 p.m.) by calling Berry at (520) 507-1080.

“If you have cleaning equipment (mops, brooms, vacuum) that you could bring, it would be even better,” she said.

As to the possibility of mold in the theater building, Berry said,  “The only place we had a concern about was in the larger theater. We have checked. While we will need to do some cleaning right in the area the water collected, no mold remediation is required.”

“We dodged a bullet there,” she added.

Currently, WHTP is  to hold a sneak preview on Friday, Nov. 16, “showing a family movie of some type in one theater only,” Berry said.

“We hope to be up and running on Thanksgiving weekend.”

In the meantime, WHTP is holding a fundraiser at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Willcox Elks Lodge.

WHTP Member Debbie Sunderland calls it a “family friendly, Mexican food dinner, with dessert and live entertainment, provided by Robin Grimes, Cindy Rae, and Kelly Rowden.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for children under 12 years of age, and children two and under are free, she said.

Sunderland also plans to have both live and silent auctions, including items for both children and adults.

“We are just tickled pink to be in,” Berry said. “We can’t wait to get the theater up and running.”

The Theater group is made up of Berry, Vice President Gary Clement, Treasurer Kurt Edelman, Secretary Lucy Flessner, Terry Rowden, Carol Adcock, Ron Berry, Debbie Sunderland, Angela Fuentes, and Peggy Ottens.

Those interested in joining may contact Carol Adcock at (520) 384-2082 or Terry Rowden at (520) 384-3371.

Cochise Credit Union has a box available for monetary donations, or they may be mailed to: Willcox Historic Theater Preservation, Inc., P.O. Box 217, Willcox, Ariz., 85644.

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