Opposition is short-sighted

In the Nov. 16 issue of the Mail Tribune, it was reported that the management of the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater was opposed to the JPR Foundation's restoration of the Holly Theatre. With the Craterian's own revenues down over the past two years, they see the Holly as dividing their own rightful piece of the revenue pie.

Stephen McCandless referred to this effort to save the Holly as a "multimillion-dollar gamble." He forgets that the Craterian, too, was a gamble that saved virtually nothing of the original building and went over budget, costing the taxpayers millions. This opinion is myopic and misses the big picture.

As Ashland has proven, adding more theatrical choices to a city does not weaken the draw of each theater. Likewise, Medford's own reputation will only be strengthened as an entertainment destination.

When the Craterian was "renovated" at taxpayer expense, it was envisioned as a stimulus to the downtown area. It was hoped that with the lure of top-notch entertainment, much-needed resident and tourist dollars would spread to the surrounding businesses.

It was a tall order for a single theater to be the savior of a downtown that has struggled as much as it has.

There is much needed improvement in the Craterian's mission in the availability of "affordable" entertainment options. Many of its performances are priced out of the reach of many of the taxpayers who funded it in the first place.

The Cascade Theatre in Redding, Calif., which is owned by the JPR Foundation, is also offering entertainment at similarly escalated prices. It's no wonder that ticket sales are down.

The renovation of the Holly should be embraced as an opportunity by the management of the Craterian and all of Medford to strengthen the downtown core as an entertainment destination. Furthermore, the addition of another theater will also allow for partnership opportunities between the two theaters.

To make this work in our current economy, a "re-think" is needed on behalf of all concerned parties. For both theaters to remain profitable, they will need to provide venues that are far more affordable.

Currently the Craterian Theatre is open only 24 percent of the year, and JPR's Cascade Theatre only 20 percent. There is clearly room for improvement between these organizations. I propose that the JPR foundation look to the Holly as a dual-use facility — as a live-entertainment venue or as a movie theater styled on the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, where old movies and film festivals could draw yet another type of patron.

In its heyday, the Holly offered both options. This honors that tradition. A dual-use facility would also keep a steadier stream of revenue flowing in Medford's downtown.

A few months ago and prior to the announced sale, I was allowed in to the side entrance of the old Holly Theater. Because of the condition of the building and the lack of lighting, I did not venture far. It was a sad affair to see this once majestic theater so badly run down. The seats are all gone now and the ceiling is being held up with stacks of wooden beams. Despite its condition, my imagination saw only potential. I'm a dreamer that way.

It will take a lot of imagination, and commitment as well, on the part of the JPR Foundation to fix this grand old lady up to her potential. It will also take a lot of imagination on the part of both theaters' managements to look at this as an opportunity that will only strengthen their positions. I can't imagine losing such a landmark to what is essentially a theatrical turf war.

John Michaels is a former Medford City Council member and current council member-elect.

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