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With recent ownership, Plumas Arts plans changes for theatre

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This photo from 1936, the first year the current Town Hall Theatre opened, shows the long lines the venue attracted. Photo courtesy Plumas County Museum

James Wilson

Sports Editor
5/2/2014

It’s going to be a big year for the Town Hall Theatre in Quincy. The first big announcement of the year in regard to the theatre came March 6. After 142 years of retaining ownership of the Town Hall Theatre and its previous incarnations, the Town Hall Association gave up ownership to Plumas Arts.

With the building owned in full by her organization, Plumas Arts director Roxanne Valladao told Feather Publishing last week it may be time to step up the theatre’s visual and audio components to stay on par with technological advances.

The Town Hall Association was formed in 1872 by three members of Quincy’s community who wanted a place for the town to gather. Until last month when the association disbanded, it was the oldest nonprofit membership-based organization in Plumas County.

Originally, Quincy’s town hall was built for political debates and live performances. In 1911, a man named Paul Sprague rented out the Town Hall to show “moving pictures.” Since then, Quincy has had a love affair with cinema.

In 1934 a fire ravaged much of downtown Quincy, and burned down the Town Hall. Two years later it was rebuilt with an art deco motif and functioned with an emphasis on motion pictures as the Town Hall Theatre.

Plumas Arts took control of the day-to-day operations and business of the theatre back in 2003, but never owned the building until recently. The Town Hall Association relinquished ownership when it was decided that its intentions paralleled those of Plumas Arts.

“Over the last decade in particular, we proved to the Town Hall Association that we were fulfilling the mission they intended,” said Valladao. “It became clear to me in 2003 that cultivating the relationship with the Town Hall Association and Plumas Arts was key to the survival of the theatre.”

Plumas Arts continued to pay a nominal rent through the last decade. During that time, Plumas Arts paid for two full interior remodels, as well as insulating the back wall to keep heating costs down, and reworking the wiring.

When Plumas Arts took over the business end of the theatre in 2003, the venue made enough revenue to help Plumas Arts with different endeavors. Currently, however, the theatre makes just enough money to stay afloat.

This is partly due to increased percentages that movie studios demand from the theatre for showing their films. According to Valladao, Plumas Arts kept 20 – 30 percent more of ticket sales in 2003 than it does now. Often, Plumas Arts has to pay 65 percent of its ticket sales to studios.

Despite decreased revenue, it is the goal of Plumas Arts to keep the theatre open for movies and live performances. It is also Valladao’s belief that keeping the theatre open is something that should concern the entire county, not just Quincy.

“Plumas Arts has worked really hard to be less provincial. Keeping the only theatre and only fixed-seat auditorium in the county viable is a concern for the entire county. This is a place where musicians and members of the community from all over the county come.”

In addition to diminished ticket sales, Plumas Arts recently encountered another roadblock. Some movie studios started distributing their films solely in digital form, and others plan to follow suit. For a one-screen theatre with a film projector, this is a problem. A $70,000 problem, to be more specific.

To keep offering moviegoers a place in Plumas County to enjoy a film in a group environment, Plumas Arts will need to go digital, or go dark.

“Nothing says ‘dead town’ like a closed up movie theatre. This is part of not only this county’s cultural community, but it’s an anchor for the business community,” said Valladao, stressing the importance of keeping the theatre alive.

To raise enough funds to continue offering movies and keep the theatre alive, Plumas Arts plans to implement a large-scale fundraising campaign soon.

Though details on the campaign are not set in stone at this time, Valladao confirmed that a committee of interested community members met for the first time last week to brainstorm fundraising ideas. Feather Publishing will relay more details on the campaign as they emerge.

Those who would like to make a donation to Plumas Arts for purchasing a digital projection system can contact Valladao at 283-3402 or email her at Roxanne@plumasarts.org.


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