After an outpouring of support, the Chelsea Theater will continue operating under new ownership.
The future of the small theater in Chapel Hill was in question when the current owner announced late last year that he would not be renewing the theater’s lease and, unless new ownership was identified, the theater located in Timberlyne Shopping Center would be closing.
That inspired some local residents to gauge community interest in keeping the theater open and possibly changing to a non-profit model. That group announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement with the current owner to take over operations of the Chelsea effective March 30.
“We expect a seamless transition,” president of the Save the Chelsea organization Tom Henkel said in a release. “Film goers can anticipate that we will begin to introduce a few new things immediately—such as a membership program with discounts on tickets, but we plan to move deliberately and gather input from our audiences.”
The group received an overwhelmingly supportive response, Henkel said, to a community survey put out with intentions to see if there would be community interest in keeping the theater open. And the organizers parlayed that support into nearly $80,000, as of Friday afternoon. They had set a goal of raising $150,000 to cover the group’s goals for the first year of operation.
Theater leadership say that the Chelsea will continue showing “first run, independent, documentary, and specialty films” as patrons are accustomed to seeing. But they add that the theater “plans to add new offerings, such as film-related discussions, showings by area filmmakers and classic films.”
Officials from the new ownership group say they have the support of the previous owners in the new venture.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the future of the theater at a community meeting scheduled for Sunday, March 4, from 2 – 4 p.m. at Flyleaf Books.