Gretchen Burns | managing editor
Colonial Fox Theatre Foundation aims to restore downtown Pittsburg
The windows of the Colonial Fox Theatre may be boarded up, but renovations are slowly becoming complete.
Vonnie Corsini, executive director, says that although a lot of renovations are done, the process is still in the beginning stages.
“We’ve almost finished ‘saving the envelope,’” Corsini said. “We’ll have structurally saved the building, and can move on toward other renovations.”
To salvage the building, The Colonial Fox Theatre foundation has replaced the roof, and will add drainage to the basement, install new entry doors and weatherproofing and get enough electricity for emergency lighting.
“The building won’t be completely saved until it’s weather tight and warm,” she said. “The sudden fluctuations in temperature are harsh on a building, and when it’s dry and warm here, we will be able to move on.”
Corsini says that $250,000-$300,000 is needed to complete installation of heating, air and fire sprinklers, and get city inspectors to define the new building’s occupational limitation.
The Colonial Fox Theatre is Pittsburg’s only surviving venue from the Movie Palace era of the 1915s-1920s.
“Although there were also some vaudeville houses, movie theaters like this were built for stage presentations and film,” Corsini said. “The communities that have had the vision to bring them back have done very well and flourished. Communities that have a theater like this have seen a boost in their downtown area and have created an atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else.”
Restoring the Pittsburg downtown is a goal for the foundation. Their leaders are working closely with the newly created Downtown Activities Council to make downtown Pittsburg a vital part of the community, Corsini says. The council is composed of residents, Art in the Park, Little Balkans, Student Activities Council, Student Government Association, and business managers in the downtown area.
“Downtowns are important to us, just as much as shopping and airport districts are,” Corsini said. “Downtowns are what make a community whole.”
Corsini says she believes that the Colonial Fox Theatre can coordinate and collaborate with all venues throughout Pittsburg.
Corsini says she isn’t worried that they will compete for attention with other coming attractions, such as the university Center for the Fine and Performing Arts.
“We are a completely different niche,” she said. “We’re a downtown historic theater with a seating of about 620. There isn’t another theater in this area like this.”
The Colonial Fox Theatre plans to offer exciting programming such as live acoustic music groups.
They will also have a screening room to cater to a variety of unconventional tastes, such as independent productions, cult classics and art films.
Corsini says that when the renovations are complete, the theater plans to keep its ‘Friday Flicks’ showing during the warmer months. Events disrupted by bad weather would move indoors.
“We’ll probably keep the Rocky Horror Picture Show outside,” Corsini said. “We would have the inside just in case, but the props involved would cause a challenge.”
Corsini says that the plan is for all area venues to work together to provide a wide variety of entertainment for the community.
“We’ll be working with other places throughout Pittsburg, like the bars, Memorial Auditorium, and the university to make sure that we are not presenting the same type of attractions.”