The Abbey Theatre is being sold to two Durango men, who plan to keep the film and music venue operating much as it is.
Doug Sitter and Chuck Kuehn have agreed to purchase the theater from Brad and Erika Merlino for $200,000. The sale is scheduled to conclude later this month.
Sitter and Kuehn said they do not plan radical changes to the Abbey.
The theater, at 128 E. College Drive, will continue to show independent films and host music concerts.
The Abbey also will maintain its relationships with community events, including the Durango Independent Film Festival and Snowdown, which it has hosted in recent years.
"We'll be assuming everything Brad did," Sitter said.
Sitter and Kuehn said they intend to broaden and increase the venue's music offerings, while also making the theater available for civic events.
Both men are longtime Durango residents.
Sitter, 45, is a semi-retired lawyer and real estate investor who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004. Kuehn, 49, has long been involved in the Durango music scene and also is known for selling the land that became the Trimble Crossing development.
"We're both invested in Durango. It's our home," Sitter said.
The buyers said they did not expect an outstanding financial return on their investment in the Abbey.
"It's really something more to have fun with and to stay in Durango, rather than a real investment," Sitter said.
Sitter said the Abbey had broke even or lost a little money in recent years.
Brad Merlino said owning the Abbey has been a "dream job," but he wants to move his family - he and his wife have a 2-year-old son - closer to relatives in Seattle.
"It's just a matter of wanting my son to grow up around uncles and cousins and grandpas," he said. "When you have a kid, your priorities change."
Merlino has agreed to stay for a while to help the new owners with the transition before moving to the Northwest.
Kuehn said the Abbey could fill a niche in the local music market.
"Hopefully, we can fill the gap between the (Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall) and the Summit," he said.
The Abbey can host about 260 fans for a sold-out show. With music venues nearby at the Summit, Wild Horse Saloon, Strater Hotel and, soon, Farquahrts under new ownership, downtown Durango will not lack for small music spaces.
"The more, the merrier," Kuehn said.
The sale includes the theater and its equipment, but it does not include the building, which is owned by Charles Bates of Albuquerque.
Since Tom Bartels founded the modern version of the Abbey in 1997, it has hosted art-house films and live music. Paul Fidanque purchased the business in 2003 and gave it a major remodel.
The Merlinos purchased it for $300,000 in 2004, taking a $100,000 loss four years later in part because of depreciating projection equipment.
In coming months, the Abbey will host music acts the Reverend Horton Heat, David Allan Coe and the South Austin Jug Band, in addition to a steady stream of independent films.
"We're just going to try a lot of different things and see what Durango likes," Kuehn said.