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Bedford Playhouse Group Signs Lease For Theater Space

The entrance to the Bedford Playhouse's shuttered movie theater space. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
The Bedford Playhouse, pictured on Thursday, May 28 with scaffolding in the front. The scaffolding is up due to roof work, landlord Kenneth Horn said, which is not related to planned demolition work inside the building. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- The group seeking to convert the Bedford Playhouse's shuttered theater space into a non-profit center announced that it has signed a long-term lease with the property's owner, Alchemy Bedford LLC.

John Farr, founder of Bedford Playhouse, Inc., said in a statement that the lease was signed on May 20.

The group is the successor to Friends of Bedford Playhouse, which raised $2.5 million in pledges earlier this year in order to pay for conversion of the space.

The proposed conversion entails removing an existing twin-screen partition and replacing with with a large theater of about 280 seats, along with a smaller theater of roughly 90 seats intended to provide more intimate experience.

“The goal of the Playhouse is simply to create an exceptional experience that keeps its members coming back," Fair said in a statement.

Kenneth Horn, an owner of Alchemy Bedford, praised the outcome.

"We view the space remaining a theatre as the best possible outcome, since it will help all the businesses in the area thrive," he said in a statement. "We invested in this initiative early on and we’re delighted it’s paid off for the benefit of the whole community."

The space became vacant in January when theater operator Bow Tie Cinemas left. Horn, seeking to replace lost rental income, had left open the possibility of converting the space into retail if he could not get a theater tenant.

Reached for comment, Farr and Horn said that the lease includes an option to buy the site's theater space. They declined to comment on lease terms such as length or rental rate.

Demolition work for the interior, which will precede a renovation, is expected to start in about 30 days, according to Horn. The work, which will be done on the landlord's behalf, involves removing items such as the seats and concession stand, Horn said, likening the space's resulting status to a "white box."

From there, Farr's group will take over for the renovation. A summer start is expected, although an architectural contract still needs to be signed.

Farr hopes to reopen the theater by the first half of next year.

Meanwhile, the group is seeking to raise more money to create a reserve in case there are cost overruns, and to pay for an initial staff for the renovated space.

"It's going to be lean," Farr said of the future headcount.

Other project aspects include a cafe in the space's upper level, along with high-end concession spaces. The announcement describes an array of events that could be hosted, including corporate meetings and private parties.

Also announced is the restructuring of the group, which includes the awarding of tax-exempt status and impending finalization of a board of directors.

The group also announced that it is planning a membership program for later this year.

“While the theater will be open to the public, we believe that many residents will join as members at whatever level they feel appropriate," said Wendy Ross, the group's executive director, in a statement. “Membership will mean access to a series of ongoing events and parties they’ll surely want to be part of.  We want these events -- and the new Playhouse itself -- to be the hottest ticket in town!”

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