GROVE CITY – With ownership facing financial difficulties from of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Guthrie Theatre — also known as the Queen of Broad Street — has been listed for sale.
“It just couldn’t have been worse timing ... It was already a difficult business to begin with,” Spencer T. Folmar said.
Veritas Arts, a nonprofit organization, took over the theater in late 2018. Folmar is president and founder of Veritas Arts.
The theater, at 232 S. Broad St., Grove City, closed earlier in 2018 after water damaged the historic structure’s ceiling.
It reopened in April 2019 after extensive renovations and has gone on to host new releases, classic and independent films, fundraisers, comedy shows, concerts, community theater productions and more.
The theater closed in March because of the pandemic and reopened in May – following COVID-19 restrictions that have led to a rapid decline in revenues, Folmar said, adding that the Guthrie hasn’t been able to offer new movies since February.
Putting the building and business on the market was a difficult decision, but he is hopeful that the non-profit group will find a new owner who will continue operations.
The property was listed on Aug. 17 with Coldwell Banker for $350,000, and there is already some interest, he said.
The purchase includes a liquor license, equipment, and one neighboring business, two apartments and one office that can be leased, according to the real estate listing.
In January, Folmar’s company, SpenceTF LLC, opened the Cinema Grille restaurant across the street from the Guthrie.
Veritas Arts had been hoping to add a screening room and performing arts academy to that three-story building, but the restaurant closed for good just weeks later because of the pandemic.
The property has been returned to the Mills family, which owned Sweet Jeanie’s, an ice cream shop previously located in the building.
In the meantime, Veritas Arts will continue running the theater as long as it’s able to do so, Folmar said.
It recently showed all of the “Harry Potter” film series and some classic movies, and the theater will offer the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Last week, the Guthrie showed “Shooting Heroin,” a film that Folmar produced, wrote and directed.
The movie follows a group of people in a small town who decide to take matters into their own hands in response to the opioid epidemic.
Folmar, a Grove City College graduate, was inspired by a visit several years ago to his hometown of Clearfield, where he saw the opioid epidemic up close.
Tonight, Sept. 2, the Guthrie will show “Tenet,” a Christopher Nolan film that was supposed to be released in the spring.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, the theater will host dinner and a movie with another showing of “Tenet” plus a meal served by Esculent Catering.
“We’re hoping that will bring people in,” he said.
Folmar bought the Guthrie from the Eric Thomas family, which had owned it since 2002 and operated it as a first-run movie house. It is the last of dozens of theaters that once dotted Mercer County’s downtowns.
The Guthrie opened in 1927 with a small stage for live vaudeville entertainment. The back wall of the stage was painted white, and sllent films were projected onto it, accompanied by a pipe organ.
Folmar said he enjoyed his time with the Guthrie, and plans to keep an eye on things when the new owner takes over.
“I look forward to staying connected,” he said.
Folmar thanked the community and the Guthrie’s staff, including Bill Grigsby, chief financial officer and business manager of the theater and Veritas Arts.
For more information about the Guthrie Theatre, call 724-458-9420, check out “The Guthrie Theatre” on Facebook, or visit www.theguthrie.org.