Many of you may have seen the editorial written by Seacoast Media Group this past Tuesday about our efforts to revive the IOKA Theater. It should come as no surprise to you that we strongly disagree with their opinion and today they published our op-ed saying so. We’ve included the full text of the op-ed below.
We hope you’ll read it and take action. We need major donors to step forward and join a coalition to purchase the IOKA from the Lewis Family. You and your community have spoken and it’s clear you want the IOKA reopened as a theater, not condos, offices, or retail.
This is our last chance. Potential investors and funders should contact Board Chair Tony Callendrello at firstname.lastname@example.org or Project Manager Adam Roberts at email@example.com. Together, we can do this.
Exeter Theater Company
PUBLISHED IN SEACOAST SUNDAY
April 21, 2013
Seacoast Media Group has long been a valuable voice for the Exeter Theater Company’s efforts to preserve and re-open the historic IOKA Theater with its thoughtful coverage. We were therefore disheartened by the recent editorial on April 16 diminishing the value and possibility of a re-opened IOKA.
The mission of the Exeter Theater Company is and remind to preserve and revive the IOKA as a working theater. We have been working with the Lewis family of Kensington to acquire the IOKA since Alan Lewis purchased it at auction in 2011. Mr. Lewis has since proposed and then retracted options to gift or lease us the theater. A recent campaign to raise money to purchase the IOKA from the Lewis family fell short of the amount requested. Though disappointing, this was not a surprise, considering that the building is worth far less than its $600,000 price tags and we were given only three months to raise the capital.
Through conversations with major donors, foundations and corporations it is clear to us that there is long-term support for this project, but until now these individuals and institutions have waited for the Exeter Theater Company to own the IOKA. They no longer have that option. The time is now to step forward and be as generous with their money as they have been with their support.
Our business plan summary is readily available to the public and the media at exetertheater.org/campaign.html, showing how the IOKA will be operated as a sustainable, nonprofit organization. With a comprehensive mix of earned revenue, sponsorships and public support, this theater will enrich the cultural environment of the greater Seacoast and be faithful to its financial obligations.
SMG’s editorial leaves out the substantial economic impact a re-opened IOKA Theater estimates the theater would generate $2 million annually for the community and create new jobs. It is for these and many other reasons that the Exeter business community has given us their full-throated support. The other proposed uses for the space (retail, condominiums or offices) cannot match that amount of consistent, positive investment to downtown Exeter.
The editorial also leaves out the voices of thousands of individuals who’ve written cards to the Lewis family, attended rallies, spoken out in visioning sessions and donated money and countless hours of their time to see the IOKA restored. It leaves out the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, which named the IOKA Theater to its 2012 “Seven to Save” list of “the kind of places that you can’t imagine your community without.”
The IOKA will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2015. It has been home for the best film, music and live performance this region has to offer. It has been a place of laughter and solace for this community through history’s high and low points. Through women’s suffrage, World War II, the civil rights struggle, man landing on the moon, Vietnam, Watergate and September 11, the IOKA has been here. It has been the site of countless first dates, first kisses, first jobs and “the first time I saw that!” stories. These memories are not simply empty sentiment — they are the living, breathing soul of a town that can never be replaced or recreated in a new space.
We do not know what plans the Lewis family has for the building, but have been told it is not likely to remain a theater. This is, quite frankly, our last opportunity. We ask those who have the resources to turn the tide in this struggle to step forward now. There will not be another chance.
Tony Callandrello, Chair
Julie Gilman, Secretary
Roger Goun, Treasurer
Exeter Theater Company Board of Directors