BARBERTON: The marquee at Barberton’s Lake Cinemas soon might shine again.
The Neighborhood Development Services group has announced it intends to buy Lake Cinemas 8 from the city for $545,000 and reopen the theater the first week of April.
Great Oaks Cinema, which operates a year-round cinema in Wadsworth, would operate the Barberton screens.
NDS Executive Director Dave Vaughan said the group plans to spend about $250,000 to install digital equipment, two 3-D screens and renovate the theater’s entryway.
The work also would include replacing two of the eight screens and a complete cleaning of the carpets, drapes and seats before the reopening.
Barberton City Council is slated to vote on the sale of the downtown theater when it meets Feb. 25.
“We thought the theater was a key part of downtown Barberton and we didn’t want to see it empty or rooted into a space that wasn’t important to the community,” Vaughan said.
He said the city approached his group for help when no acceptable proposals for development ideas for the theater were received when the existing lease with the previous operator expired.
“It has always been my goal to keep the Lake theater open,” Mayor Bill Judge said in a statement. “We have a responsible and community-minded organization that will make this a win-win for everyone involved. The city of Barberton wins, Neighborhood Development Services wins and most importantly, the residents and downtown area wins with this sale.”
NDS is a community development corporation in Barberton that works to revitalize neighborhoods and the city’s center. It invests in communities through promoting affordable housing, down payment assistance and foreclosure prevention.
The group would pay for the theater by borrowing $545,000 from the Barberton Community Development Corp. (BCDC), which would be paid off in a five-year mortgage on the property. BCDC is a tax-exempt, nonpolitical organization that works to bring businesses and jobs to the city.
The purchase would include the attached building that is now home to East of Chicago Pizza, which would relocate. There are no plans by the group for that space yet.
Lake Cinemas closed Jan. 15 following failed negotiations between previous tenant Phil Canfora and the city regarding a new lease or sale.
Canfora was unable to pay the $2,000 monthly rent for about three years and owed the city $98,000. He offered to buy the building for $400,000, but the city wanted at least $100,000 more.
The theater has been a staple of downtown Barberton since 1938, when it opened by showing Sergeant Murphy, starring Ronald Reagan and Mary Maguire, with only one screen with 1,000 seats.
It closed in 1980 and didn’t open again until 1994 following renovations.
Some of the original “Art Moderne” architecture and design of the theater remains, including painted tapestries on the walls.