With the news last week that the Oneonta Theatre would be closing at year’s end, many feared the end of another area institution.
The theater — built in 1897 and on the state and national registers of historic places — opened in its present incarnation in 2010 after major renovations.
Since those improvements, the venue has hosted such varied entertainment as Blue Oyster Cult, free showings of classic films such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Gone With the Wind,” dance parties, the Amazing Kreskin, Arlo Guthrie and Kansas. The theater has its own stage group, the Oneonta Theatre Stage Players, and runs the Lobby Lounge in the front of the house.
The theater fills an important role in our community: A venue with classic looks and charm able to attract acts big and small, local and international. It maintains the old-time charm from its early days as a vaudeville stage and first-run movie house.
The theater attracts audiences in our area who prefer not to travel to such places as New York City, Albany and Syracuse to enjoy quality entertainment. And it brings in others from outside our community intrigued by the venue’s ambiance, who spend time in our area and spend money that helps our local businesses in downtown Oneonta.
Building owner Tom Cormier, who said the theater was losing money, said: “I’ve weathered this for a long time by myself. I’m just at the point now that … I can’t stand here by myself and weather this anymore.”
Lucky for us, plans are in the works to keep the doors of the historic venue open for future audiences to enjoy.
While an early player in the theater’s renovations, the Friends of the Oneonta Theatre has been mostly quiet since the 2010 reopening.
The group this week has agreed with Cormier to keep the theater open as a nonprofit facility and performing arts center.
The nonprofit status offers more opportunities for the Friends to apply for grants and to pursue other financial assistance to preserve the theater and make further improvements.
Friends of the Oneonta Theatre President and Chairwoman Patrice Macaluso said the group may hold a public meeting at the theater between Christmas and New Year’s to attract interest and appreciation for the theater as an asset. The venue is an important part of our vitality as an arts and entertainment community and deserves our support.
She rightfully said, “a lot of people first saw it when it was really run down, and if they haven’t been back, I think part of it is to open up and show people what has been done.”