Breathing new life into an old theater

A local movie scene from the 1930s comes alive again with the Pullman Civic Theatre’s Audian Project. The Audian served as a movie theater for the Pullman area, but closed about 10 years ago.

The Pullman Civic Theatre plans to restore the Audian with the addition of a stage for live performances, said Head of Audian Project Kristen Lincoln. The Pullman Civic Theatre (PCT) has considered turning the theatre into a space for them for quite a while.

Tracie Brelsford, the facilities developer for the Audian Project, first got involved when Lincoln called and asked about the feasibility of the project. She said she was familiar with the building and knew she wanted to help with the project.

“I used to work there back in the late ‘70s and most of the ‘80s when it was a movie theatre,” Brelsford said. “I knew the folks who ran it up until when it was closed down. Out of all of us who worked in the theatres, the Audian was everyone’s favorite.”

PCT wants to preserve as much as possible of the old artistic design of the Audian’s interior, Brelsford said. They wish to keep it familiar to those who will remember it, but to upgrade it as well.

Once the conversation started for renovating the theatre, PCT decided a stage exclusive to them couldn’t be maintained due to the cost, Lincoln said. But since PCT has expanded into supporting other local performing groups, they realized that they could use the Audian for others as well.

While the Audian will remain a movie house, it will also have band performances, festivals, symphonies and stage performances, Lincoln said.

Eventually, this evolved into the idea of the Audian having its own non-profit group with a board of directors from a variety of music and theatre groups in the area, Lincoln said. For now, PCT handles everything because the Audian non-profit has not yet been established.

PCT has several different phases for fundraising, Lincoln said. Right now, it takes direct donations and donations through its Razoo crowdfunding site.

Currently PCT needs to negotiate the lease with U.S. Bank, Lincoln said, and will do so once it has raised enough money through their fundraising campaigns.

One of the fundraising plans involves asking for local business sponsorships. The entire community, whether through large or small donations, has the chance to participate, she said.

PCT has also been researching grants, including both government and private foundation grants, Linclon said. Even after the Audian’s restoration, it will take a lot of money to keep it running.

Lincoln said PCT hopes to connect the Audian with WSU. For example, business students will do feasibility studies on the project. Architecture students will be involved in design and performing arts students may do shows in the future, she said.

For the board of directors, PCT hopes to get representation from all the arts groups in the area, which will help in the remodel process with determining all their needs regarding stage and space requirements, Lincoln said. PCT also hopes to have a lot of movie festivals, showing independent and foreign films.

The project has gone smoothly so far, Lincoln said. Looking at the theatre the first time, PCT expected a huge mess, but the theatre has stayed in beautiful condition. All the challenges PCT expected have gone much easier so far, she said. Raising enough money presents the biggest challenge at the moment.

Lincoln said she is most looking forward to when the Audian finally opens.

“I’m so anxious to open those doors,” Lincoln said. “This facility means so much to me and a lot of my team because we all have memories of being there. There’s a lot of love for that space.”

The Audian will eventually have its own website, but right now all info about the project can be found on the PCT website, Lincoln said. PCT will also launch the Audian’s own Facebook page very soon, where they can post updates about the Audian’s restoration and what they need next.

The PCT’s current plans for the stage include having live theatre with a green room for actors and a stage for symphonies, large bands, small bands and dance recitals in addition to theatre performances. Brelsford is seeking input from local performers such as the Washington Idaho Symphony to determine their needs in a stage.

The Audian is just a shell right now, Brelsford said. The screen, along with all the seats, projectors and concession counters, is gone. Basically, the building has toilets and sinks, she said. The building also requires repairs because it has some water leaks. But PCT wants to set up the movie screen once repairs finish, then add the theatre stage and host large symphonies.

Those who want to get involved can donate at the PCT’s website or the Razoo fundraising page titled “The Audian Performing Arts Centre.”

“We believe,” Brelsford said, “that the entire Palouse region will benefit from this.”