After the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town sent out a survey last week to gauge the level of community support in a revitalization of the Chelsea Theater, possibly as a non-profit art-house theater, CHALT founding member Tom Henkel says the local group is looking for possible investors to bring their “Save the Chelsea” campaign to fruition.
“Right now, one of the questions on our survey is if someone is willing to kick in more than a membership,” said Henkel. “We need people with deep pockets that are willing to make significant contributions up front in order to purchase the Chelsea from its owner.”
The theater’s current owner Bruce Stone announced in a release in November that with the end of their lease approaching, committing to a new lease may be difficult due to his age.
Now, with nearly 900 responses to the group’s survey, it is clear that interest in a membership-based non-profit theater in Chapel Hill is high.
“We have not analyzed all the data,” said Henkel, “but just to get 800 or 900 people when the survey has only been out about five days is, I think, quite remarkable.”
Henkel referenced an art house theater in Ithaca, New York, as inspiration for some of the changes the group may want to make to the Chelsea Theater and lists London Opera performances, films by local filmmakers and fundraisers as some of the events they may like to turn their focus toward.
Henkel said competing with the Silverspot cinema in University Place is not of interest to the group.
“We would not want to compete with Silverspot, because obviously we can’t,” said Henkel. “Silverspot offers a lot of bells and whistles that the Chelsea cannot.”
Despite the theater’s proximity to UNC, Henkel says the group is looking at retirees at its target demographic for membership.
“Young folks don’t go to movies so much, we believe,” said Henkel. “There’s Netflix and all sorts of stuff on television, but the movie theater experience is different.”
The group is looking to have a concrete plan set by March 1, as the theater’s lease must be renewed by the end of March.