Lights, camera and community theatre: $500B in renovations planned for Smithtown Performing Arts Center

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New seating, carpeting, masonry, HVAC and bathrooms: Oh, and 200 light bulbs to once again illuminate the giant theater marquee above Smithtown’s Main Street.

This is a partial wishlist for the Smithtown Performing Arts Council, which, after renting the historic Smithtown Theater for about 20 years, purchased the building in a $1.45 million deal dollars announced in June.

The board and its supporters are now aiming to raise $500,000 for the renovations, said chairman Michael Mucciolo and vice chairman Keith Blum, a prospect that is both daunting and exciting. Mucciolo, 43, who works in information technology but has a background in professional theater production, and Blum, 47, a retired Nassau County bomb squad detective, are now stewards of a community institution that provided a combination of film, live theater and education. programming since 1933.

“Not only is it an economic anchor, but it’s a community anchor,” Mucciolo said. told Newsday last week as he and Blum took a break from work on the underwater set of an upcoming production of “The Little Mermaid.” Some adults in Smithtown got their first taste of freedom in Friday night movies when the theater was still a United Artists property, Mucciolo said. For some of the city’s young families, “the first time they’ve taken their children to the theater or cinema” they came to this old downtown building, towering above its low-rise neighbors and distinguished by its stained-glass windows .

For much of the past three years, the two men said, they have been focused on keeping the theater alive. The pandemic forced the suspension of theatrical operations from March 2020 to September 2021. For the year ending December 2020, the nonprofit’s revenue from ticket sales and other sources, which averaged $1.2 million a year in the four years before the pandemic fell to $535,785, according to the council’s latest IRS filing.

There was also a spat with Kenneth Washington, the group’s former chief executive and owner, who put the building up for sale for $1.6million after saying the council owed him more than $90,000. dollars in back rent. Mucciolo said all claims were dropped after the sale.

Washington in 2020 received a salary of $79,000 and $73,750 in rent, according to the filing. Washington’s wife, Laura Washington, was also paid $10,421, according to the filing. Management of the board is now entirely voluntary.

They seek artistic grants and private donations, in cash and in kind, from local merchants. The city government will be one of the first donors, Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said, providing up to $40,000 from a downtown facade improvement grant program set to open in the coming weeks. .

Wehrheim – who grew up riding the Long Island Rail Road from Kings Park to Smithtown to watch movies on weekends – said he sees theater as an “essential part” of the city’s downtown revitalization efforts. town. “The theater will attract,” he said. “If we don’t have a theatre, we’re going to see people who like it go to other places in other townships.”

Blum and Mucciolo said they are working on partnerships with area restaurants to attract customers looking for a full evening. They will continue successful initiatives such as outdoor children’s shows at the nearby Historical Society property and open the theater more nights, partnering with a comedy club to offer 10-12 comedy shows a year. .

“We know what works,” Blum said. “We need help to repair the whole building and bring it back to life.

What’s on and coming soon

“The Little Mermaid” from July 2 to 24

“Elephant and Piggie’s We Are In A Play” July 9-29

“Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” from August 5 to September 3

“I love you, you are perfect, now change” from August 4 to 14

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