Historic theaters in Oregon: potential economic engines facing challenges
By Marti Gerdes
A report by UO graduate students reveals that the shuttered or struggling theaters—former cultural and economic linchpins in their communities—remain potential catalysts for downtown revitalization.
EUGENE, Ore. – (September 28, 2015) – A new report by UO graduate students on the condition of Oregon’s historic theaters reveals them as potentially significant economic engines challenged by financial and organizational needs, which the report provides specific recommendations to address.
Nearly a year of research resulted in “Oregon Historic Theaters: Statewide Survey and Needs Assessment.” The report notes that the many shuttered or struggling theaters—former cultural and economic linchpins in their communities—remain potential catalysts for downtown revitalization.
The report was produced by five University of Oregon graduate students working with UO Community Planning Workshop Program Director Robert Parker. They documented the condition and needs of the theaters and outlined recommendations for increased success.
The survey identifies four key challenges facing historic theaters: tight finances, aging infrastructure, increased competition, and lack of coordination among owners-operators for sharing opportunities.
- Fifty-six percent of Oregon’s historic theaters have not been seismically retrofitted, 57 percent do not have automatic fire protection, and 46 percent are not fully ADA compliant.
- The theaters collectively hosted 62,000 events and brought in $23 million in revenue.
- The thirty-six theaters responding to the survey reported a combined $20.8 million in deferred maintenance.
- Thirty-two percent had not upgraded to fully digital projection, necessary to show first-run movies and remain more competitive.
The report recommends: (1) theaters undergo comprehensive structural assessments, preferably by an architect trained in historic preservation; and (2) a diverse coalition of nonprofit and state agencies create a statewide “historic theaters initiative” that offers funding, technical support, access to diverse programming, and a mechanism for sharing information and resources.
A five-year “Action Plan” to address theaters’ needs was begun in August by Restore Oregon, Oregon Main Street, the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Film (the Governor’s Office of Film and Video), Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Regional Solutions Team, Pacific Power, and the UO’s Community Service Center.
Travel Oregon provided a matching grant for the survey. Match dollars, acquired through efforts by Parker, came from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) administered through the UO’s EDA University Center. The inventory was conducted between September 2014 and August 2015.
For more information contact Robert Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org