Confident that it has found the person who can be successful operating the historic Lynn Theatre, the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) on Monday unanimously approved a lease agreement that will bring movies back to downtown Gonzales.
While time and acceptance by the community will ultimately determine the theater’s success, the GEDC is expressing cautious optimism about the future of the downtown landmark with veteran theater operator Cliff Anderson at the helm beginning Monday, Oct. 1.
“It’s our general consensus that it has been a troubled process, but we’re cautiously optimistic that this will succeed,” said GEDC board member James Ryan after the panel approved the four-year lease agreement with an option to purchase.
“[Anderson’s] in the movie business, so if anybody can make this thing work, this is the closest we’ve gotten in a long time,” acknowledged board president Nathan Neuse. “He was rated the No. 1 single-screen movie operator in Texas (by gross receipts).”
Anderson, who has worked with several independent theater owners during the past 30 years, has owned and operated the theater in Hondo for the past seven years. “I have learned a lot from them and have been able to witness their successes and failures. My family also loves the business, and they will be involved as management and the daily operation of the Lynn,” he says.
“We enjoy old movie theaters and love to see people have a great time when they come,” Anderson says of his business philosophy. “We try to provide the best experience for our patrons from the presentation to service. The theater is a meeting place in small towns and adds a diversion that everyone enjoys without having to travel to major cities. Movies are part of the American culture. I believe they are more enjoyable when watched in the theater with the splendor of the big screen and big sound and an audience.”
Anderson immediately placed an order for digital movie equipment, which is the industry’s current gold standard, but expects it to be the end of the year before the equipment is installed. He says he will open the theater on Nov. 2 with 35mm, “but I will be replacing the projectors to provide a much better picture. I will also be upgrading the sound systems.”
The lease agreement calls for a $2,500 security deposit at lease signing and an additional $2,500 to be paid on Feb. 1, 2013. Because of the expense involved with the upgrades to digital equipment, the GEDC waived the $1,000 monthly rental fee until May 1, 2013. Anderson is assured first right of refusal on the purchase of the Lynn, which is priced at $250,000. The GEDC has agreed to discount the sales price by $12,500 for each year Anderson leases the theater.
“I hope to preserve some of these great old movie theaters and provide an environment that is unique and enjoyable to the community,” Anderson says of his vision for the Lynn.
He says he will show first-run movies, but admits that with only two screens and studio requirements, “we will have to play some features two or three weeks after their release date.”
Anderson plans to offer special screenings, the first of which is a free outdoor showing of “Despicable Me” on a drive-in-sized screen at Confederate Square on Oct. 20. He also plans to have a free showing of “The Polar Express” Dec. 22-24, and will have a model train layout and a visit from Santa Claus.
“We will have kid shows in the summer, dinner and a movie, outdoor screenings, and events tied to holidays like Veterans’ Day. We want to try a classic film series as well. Birthday parties and special screenings are also available,” he says.
Anderson says he has been involved with the theater industry virtually his entire career, and has operated a theater equipment supply business since 1976. He has consulted with theater owner’s architects and contractors on the concept, design and construction of theaters, and has also worked in the production of major Hollywood films.
“It just shows me that he’s thought it out, that he knows what needs to go where,” GEDC director Carolyn Gibson told her board in support of Anderson.