App Theatre Group Enters Public Fundraising Phase, Raises $6.1M (78 Percent) of Goal

Published Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm
Appalachian Theatre of the High Country Chair John Cooper (right) speaks with the Dr. Joe Edmisten (far left) and his brother Rufus Edmisten, the former N.C. Secretary of State and Attorney General. Photo by Jesse Wood

Appalachian Theatre of the High Country Chair John Cooper (right) speaks with the Dr. Joe Edmisten (far left) and his brother Rufus Edmisten, the former N.C. Secretary of State and Attorney General. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

On Thursday, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country announced the public phase of the capital campaign to renovate and restore the historic Appalachian Theatre to its original 1938 art deco design.

Since beginning the silent phase of fundraising in the spring of 2012, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country has raised $6.1 million of its $7.85 million goal – or about 78 percent of the goal.

“Things are hopping here,” Chair John Cooper said on Thursday afternoon.

In a release, Cooper added, “With the help of private individuals, corporations, local and regional foundations, as well as the public sector, we are well on our way!”

Before the silent phase began in 2012, the Town of Boone fronted the Downtown Boone Development Association a three-year loan worth $624,000 to purchase the gutted theatre in foreclosure in the fall of 2011. The DBDA and The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, a nonprofit that was formed to take over the possession of the theatre and manage operations, eventually paid the town back for purchasing the theatre in 2013.

The Appalachian Twin Theater years ago.

The Appalachian Twin Theater years ago.

The future seating capacity of the theatre will be about 675 seats and will be versatile as far as what is featured there: music, theatre, dance, community events and more. It also has an orchestra pit, which a donor has individually funded to cover the anticipated $650,000 in expenses for the pit.

The theatre is expected to hold more than 200 activities per year and at least 60 events that are anticipated to draw folks from several states.

Cooper said there is also a separate financial campaign for operating expenses. The goal is to raise $750,000 to cover operating expenses (revenue versus expenses) for the first three years of operation. Cooper noted that there are a wide array of foundations, which haven’t been tapped, that will fund operating expenses but won’t fund renovation expenses.

The nonprofit has set a goal to open the restored theatre on Nov. 14, 2016, which coincides with the 77th birthday of the old Appalachian Theatre. Cooper said that currently the group is in the design and development stage. On June 13, the final design should be completed and Cooper said the group hopes to hit the ground running with construction as soon as the design plans are drafted into construction plans.

During the press conference, Rufus Edmisten, the former N.C. Secretary of State and Attorney General, and his brother Joe stopped by and shared old stories about the theatre. Both are Watauga natives, who grew up in the Perkinsville community.

When Edmisten went to the theatre as a youngster, he said he bought a coke for nickel, a hot dog for 15 cents and the picture show for a dime.

With four brothers and a sister and the family only having one car, Edmisten said that he would throw a little bit of produce in the family’s 1952 Ford farm tractor and act as if he was dropping some produce off at Goodnight Brothers Produce Company on Howard Street, which was adjacent to where the theater is located. Without a license plate for driving the tractor on the road, Edmisten said that it also helped to keep  the State Highway Patrol at bay because they were reluctant to bother folks hauling produce in their tractors during those days.

“The theatre was the biggest thing in the world,” Edmisten said. “Country boys … would pray for rain on Saturday, so they didn’t have to work on the farm. That would give them a good excuse to go to the theater.”

Both Edmisten and his brother praised the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country for their hard work. They seemed grateful that the old theatre isn’t going to be demolished – like the old Daniel Boone Hotel across the street – and will be around for the younger generations to experience.

“This place was important to our youth and even more important now,” Dr. Joe Edmisten said.

The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country’s office will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the June and July months for potential donors or interested community members to stop by and learn about the restoration project.

For more information, click to http://www.savetheapptheatre.com.

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