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Culture: For the Huntridge's next act ...

“The crowdfunding element is our way of asking the bigger-picture question of, how much do people want this? How much do they want to be involved?” says Cornthwaite, owner of the Downtown Cocktail Room. “If they do care, is it a group of 20 people, or a group of 20,000?”

Call it money-where-your-mouth-is market research. Meeting that $150,000 benchmark, they say, will help them better court a dozen or so prospective, unidentified investors to buy the theater from the current owners, the Mizrachi family. Total price tag: $4 million. They estimate a full restoration to be in the neighborhood of $12 to $15 million.

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Those donating money to the campaign ( get some perks for their patronage, whether they’re a “friend of the Huntridge” at $5 (a digital poster) or a “Huntridge angel” at $25,000 (lifetime VIP parking). While Huntridge Revival, LLC is a private, for-profit company, donors who kick in at least $10 get to vote at planned monthly programming meetings. Bigger donors get more votes.

[HEAR MORE:  Hear a discussion of the Huntridge revival campaign on KNPR's State of Nevada.]

If it’s an unusual approach, it fits a venue with an unusual — and sometimes troubled — history. Opened in 1944, the Huntridge Theater was originally a first-run moviehouse known for its handsome Streamline Moderne tower and film premieres that saw live bands and star appearances from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich. These days, it’s remembered largely for its decade-plus run as a gritty, rough-hewn rock ’n’ roll venue that hosted everyone from Sonic Youth to the Beastie Boys, giving Las Vegas a storied slice of rock history.

“There will definitely be live music, definitely performing arts, definitely a lot of community-driven programming (in the next incarnation),” says Joey Vanas, managing partner of First Friday. “We want it to be the kind of place people can go every day and there’s something happening.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time that big dreamers have set their sights on the Huntridge. That said, Cornthwaite, Vanas and Choudhry are realistic. “If we don’t raise the money,” says Cornthwaite, “then we’re three guys who took it in the shorts.” It’s a calculated gamble with hopes of a cultural jackpot.

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“I live just a few streets away from it, and I think the Huntridge represents possibility,” says Vanas. “Every time I drive by, I don’t think about how sad it is that it’s in such a state of disrepair. I think how amazing it’ll be when it’s turned back on. It’s not the nostalgia that resonates with me, but the potential and the possibility.”

As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.