Visual Commentary: Another Stage
The Huntridge Theater’s entertainment history is a lively one — Art Moderne movie theater, gritty punk rock palace — but its history with would-be saviors is a troubled one. After the theater’s storied run in the ’90s as a music venue, the Mizrachi family purchased it in 2002 and shut it down in 2004 for renovations; Eli Mizrachi professed plans to reopen it as a modern music venue. The theater remained closed. In 2013, three Downtown entrepreneurs launched a crowdfunding campaign and sought investors to buy and restore the Huntridge; the murky plan never went anywhere. There were other proposals along the way: a retail complex, a cultural center. In 2014, the state sued Eli Mizrachi, claiming he’d broken the protective historic covenants by letting the theater fall into disrepair.
The side effect of all these wild swings — hope one year, despair the next — was a case of Huntridge fatigue. Maybe you’ve felt it. It’s as though the dilapidated theater has existed for so long as a phantasmic barometer of civic hopes and frustrations, dreams and disappointments, that we got burned out. The theater lost its sense of possibility as a physical building in the real world. It became a totem of impasse and negation. The dead Huntridge seemed to settle into itself as the dead Huntridge.
The latest news is that developer J Dapper, with the city as broker, has struck a deal to buy the site of the historic theater for $4 million from the Mizrachi family, with plans to restore it as a music venue. The sale could take up to eight months to complete.
“We’re going through this process that could take a long time — six to eight months — and it’s because we want to save the theater,” Dapper says. “The hope is we’re going to bring it back to what it was like in its glory days, and maybe even better.” Dapper is a Las Vegas native, a successful developer who’s invested in Downtown, and, in general, seems like a person who does what he says he’s going to do. Could this be a new stage for the long-shuttered venue?