Suitors lining up for Allred Theater in Pryor
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 5:03 AM
PRYOR - A Vinita couple with cinema interests in northeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas have signed a lease to reopen the 95-year-old Allred Theater, which went out of business in mid-August.
Robert and Angie Jones, who own Vinita-based Center Cinemas, plan to open three digital screens of the Allred at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Angie Jones said. They signed a one-year lease last week and intend to try to buy the property when Century Bank of Oklahoma offers it for sale as early as February, she said.
"My husband used to come to movies here and he's always been interested in it," she said. "We're excited to be here."
The Jones also operate theaters in Vinita, Grove and Siloam Springs, Ark. They expect to open the two-screen annex portion of the theater in a week or so, Angie Jones said.
"We've been cleaning for six days," she said. "We've put in a lot of hours.
"A lot of people have come by to say how it smells better than they've ever smelled it and that it's cleaner than they've ever seen."
Pryor Mayor Jimmy Tramel said: "It revives the area for downtown, for Christmas shopping. I can tell you that when the Allred closed, our foot traffic downtown, according to merchants, went down probably about 80 percent. This is a great encouragement for us."
Raymond Simpson, a 22-year-old Pryor resident who began working at the theater at age 16, has been leading a fundraising effort to buy the theater.
He organized an investment group whose immediate goal is raising $100,000 toward a down payment on the facility.
Through agencies such as the Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center, Simpson, who is Cherokee, also seeks to generate about $250,000 for repairs and roughly $110,000 to convert the remaining two of the Allred's five theaters to digital technology.
State Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, an attorney for the investment group, said about 18 investors have signed on.
"For the time being, I'm certainly happy to see the theater open because it's such an important part of the community and a sales tax draw for downtown," Simpson said. "It doesn't affect my efforts at all. The theater still goes up for sale at foreclosure auction and I still intend on bidding. I may have a harder time reaching the general public now because they see the theater open."
Simpson said he is launching a campaign next week that will move the minimum contribution to less than $1,000.
"There's no doubt in my mind the theater would still be viable under their (the Joneses') ownership," he said. "But to be a small business owner, particularly in a small town like Pryor, you have to be here every day working on the ground making a push. That's what I would intend to do as owner of the theater."
Founded by J.F. Allred, the Allred Theater opened in 1917, showing silent films. It was last owned by Gene Oliver, whose family bought it in 1963.
Original Print Headline: Allred Theater in Pryor revived by Vinita couple
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395