PRESTONSBURG — The closure of the Strand Twin Theater two weeks ago might not be the end of the line for the historic venue, as plans are now in the works that could transform the facility from a first-run cinema to an arts center hosting classic films and a variety of live acts.
Prestonsburg Economic Development Director Mike Vance announced Monday a temporary plan to use the theater through February, in order to test the waters to determine if Prestonsburg can support an arts center in the venue.
At least two events are planned for February. Appalachian Community Theatres, a local acting troupe, will stage a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” at the theater Feb. 22 and 23. The acting group has been without a home since September, when it was informed after its production of “Schoolhouse Rock Jr.” that it would no longer be able to use the Mountain Arts Center.
The are also plans for Deadpit Radio to continue using the Strand for its “East Kentucky Fear Festival” midnight showings of classic horror movies, with the next screening to be “Poltergeist.” No firm date for the “Poltergeist” screening has been set, although Vance said it could take place as early as mid-February. Vance said the film series has been a financial bright spot for the theater and for organizers, who include his son, Wes.
Vance said the fear festival already plans to continue its midnight showings past February, and might also screen other types of classic movies, such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” on weekday evenings.
But the February events are important, Vance said, because they will give organizers and city officials an indication of whether the Strand could be a viable venue for different types of events.
“Everybody’s interested to see if we can draw folks into the Strand for something other than first-run movies,” Vance said.
Appalachian Community Theatres board president Jason Kretzer confirmed his group would be staging “Arsenic and Old Lace” at the Strand, and said the group would use the event as a trial run for the theater. However, he could not comment on whether the Strand could become a permanent home for the group.
“We have to see how it works out before we make any further plans …” Kretzer said. “At this point, we don’t know what the future holds.”
Kretzer said the group does have some concerns whether the Strand would be suitable for some of its larger productions. He also said there are some other venues that could also compete to be Appalachian Community Theatres’ new home, but he declined to identify them.
Vance said if the events prove there is enough community support for a variety of events at the Strand, one potential consequence could be to convert the theater into an arts center.
Appalachian Community Theatres has received a $10,000 Flex-E-Grant from the Brushy Fork Institute. Part of the money will be used to send some members to Colquitt, Ga., to study how that community used the arts to revitalize its economy.
Colquitt is a city in southwestern Georgia that turned an old cotton warehouse into a 284-seat theater to show performances of the locally-produced “Swamp Gravy” folk-life play. The play was such a success that the acting group has toured the United States and South America to perform the play.
The remainder of the grant could be used toward studying the feasibility of creating an arts center in an attempt to replicate Colquitt’s success.