TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Movies, comedy shows, and potentially dinner theater events are expected to be coming to the historic Indiana Theater in downtown Terre Haute after officials announced a change of ownership Tuesday.
During a special media event held Tuesday morning, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett along with local businessman Greg Gibson and other officials announced that Gibson would be donating the theater to the county’s Capital Improvement Board.
“We believe that the facility is historic and should be preserved and we think the best way to do that is to put it in the hands of the community itself,” Gibson said.
“It’s an exciting day here in Terre Haute,” Mayor Duke Bennett said. “Greg Gibson purchased this building a few years ago, the Indiana Theatre, and he’s decided he wants to make a donation to the CIB, which is tremendous.”
When asked about plans for what residents can expect to see happening at the theater in the future the mayor said he’s hoping for a variety of events.
“A local gentleman who has already been running movies at the drive-in on the north side of town … had already partnered with Greg to begin to show movies in here once some refurbishment is done. So there will be movies running at certain times of the week. But there will be other opportunities to have a variety of comedy shows, kids programs, you name it, this building can accommodate that.”
Under the CIB’s leadership, KJB Theaters will manage the daily operations of the theatre. That agreement was established with Gibson and will transfer directly to the CIB. KJB has industry experience and expertise. They manage multiple theaters in West Central Indiana and East Central Illinois markets, including the Moonlite Drive-In Theater in Terre Haute.
The mayor said the goal is to bring more people downtown and improve the quality of life of area residents.
The mayor credited previous owners for the work that has already been done, but said a larger investment is needed.
“A private owner, it’s very difficult for them to do,” Bennett said. “So that’s what’s going to be great about this, we have a variety of funds and things available to us to be able to turn this back into what it needs to be, and I can’t wait until that happens.”
Brent Barnhart, President KJB Theaters, looks forward to, “new roofing, new HVAC, new wiring, new plumbing, new chairs, the new projection system and sound and screen,” he said. “As well as a new concession stand and bar area and a new marquee as well, so a lot of improvements,” he added.”
“But we have the resources as the city, the county, and CVB to do that through the CIB. That’s what this is all about, we make community investments. So when money comes in, we turn around and reinvest it,” Bennett said. “So all those tax dollars that people pay when they go out to restaurants or stay at the local hotel, all those things help us to be able to accomplish projects like this. So we’ll make the needed investment.”
When asked about a timeline the mayor was cautious to place specific terms on it, but said he expected 12-14 months.
“We’re gonna get with an architectural firm that specializes in theaters, we’re going to start that conversation immediately. (We can) get a handle on what needs to be done, get our bids in, and then we will be able to lay that timeline out.”
The mayor hoped to know more in the next couple of months.
“Just being in this building reminds me of my youth, when I used to come (watch) movies here,” Bennett reflected. “I drive by (the theatre) multiple times a day, and kept wondering ‘How can we bring this back to our community?’ And Greg has made that possible.”
A meeting will be held Wednesday with the Capital Improvement Board to discuss renovations of the location.