Committee vows to keep Avalon open

A committee tasked with recommending how the Avalon Theatre should be used in the future vowed Tuesday to not let the venue go dark, even as questions hang over the theater in the days following the disbanding of its primary occupant.

Members of the Avalon Theatre Advisory Committee spent a portion of a nearly two-hour meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center brainstorming events to put on next year to raise money for the theater.

“We can’t let that happen,” committee member André van Schaften said of the prospect of the theater being empty most of the time in the wake of Cinema at the Avalon ceasing operations.

Another committee member, Harry Griff, said he believes the city of Grand Junction will have to subsidize the Avalon in some format, whether through use of city employees at some events, rent abatements or something else to keep it going in the years to come.

“Whatever the model is, the city will have to be supportive to some defined degree to make that building work and keep it open,” Griff said.

Avalon stakeholders have struggled with tackling a makeover of the theater’s interior. The committee recently recommended scaling back a $14 million to $18 million expansion and renovation in favor of a more basic level of infrastructure improvements costing $3 million to $5 million.

When asked what the Avalon needs in order for him to book more events there, concert promoter and Sandstone Entertainment owner Ron Wilson compared the theater to shopping for a car at a used-car lot.

On the outside, he said, the building looks great. On the inside, though, “the seats are torn, when I turn it one of the headlights doesn’t work and it’s slow to turn on. That’s what we’ve got (with the Avalon).”

Many of the same shortcomings identified years ago cropped up again Tuesday, including lighting, seating and sound.

But some committee members acknowledged raising even the smaller amount of money needed to fix those problems might prove difficult given the current economy. They acknowledged uncertainty about the types of events to which the theater might best cater.

Meanwhile, some members of the Avalon Theatre Foundation who attended Tuesday’s meeting expressed dismay at their group’s lack of activity. Foundation board member Diann Admire said the board hasn’t met or raised money in two or three years.

The foundation was created to be the fundraising arm of the Avalon.

Foundation board members clamored to begin generating funding for the theater again, but Griff advised them to hold off for the time being.

“I don’t think we should go to the community and ask for money until we know what we are asking money for,” Griff said.

Debbie Kovalik, executive director of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, Two Rivers Convention Center and the Avalon, said the folding of Cinema at the Avalon raises concerns about filling the theater in the next several months.

The committee responded by suggesting a number of possible events in the coming months, including a Grand Valley talent show, a speaker series and a specialized film series, among others.


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