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Council says no to buying theater

Walterboro City Council again declined to purchase the city’s former Ivanhoe Movie Theater following a recent council meeting.
During last week’s city council meeting, Walterboro resident Noel Ison again petitioned council to help buy the former movie theater. Ison has been working since 2014 to buy the theater and reopen it. On Tuesday night, he presented council with a petition of 2,500 names of people wanting the city to help fund the theater’s reopening and refurbishment.
Council took no action at the meeting; however, council opted the following day to not fund the project.
Ison says the community needs the theater because seniors in the area have nothing to do. “I was in front of Wal-Mart for six hours collecting signatures and people told me they were sorry their kids would not have the memories of a local theater the way they did,” he said. “The veterans, the seniors, the youth, everybody would benefit from this.”
Despite being told no by council, Ison is still moving forward with his plan. Ison says he is meeting with a potential private buyer and is also planning to work with the area’s local veteran groups to receive the funding. Ison says he needs about $147,000 to upgrade the theater’s equipment, install new seating and improve the concession area.
Ison wants the current 4-screen theater to be turned into a 2-screen theater, with the remaining two rooms designated for children’s parties and an arcade and video game room.
“It’s more expensive for our schools to take field trips to Charleston, our local restaurants and shops are losing money from the weekend outings to Summerville and Charleston to see a movie, and our families have nowhere for parties and family trips. We can fix all of that,” he said.
Since his last efforts to buy the theater in 2015, Ison says the bank that has the building’s existing loan has agreed to “tweak” the contract, allowing for a lease-to-purchase instead of a full buyout. “I’m not giving up on this. It’s needed,” he said.
Ison added that he is upset with city council for ignoring the wishes of thousands of people who want the city to use funds to buy the theater. “By my calculations, we can add $1 to the cost of each ticket, making the total $8 per person. That $1 would pay the city back fully in five years.”
As of press deadline, no other advances were made on Ison’s plan to purchase the former theater, which closed three years ago after more than 20 years of business.

Heather Walters (917 Posts)