It’s been a long road back for the Animas City Theatre, which some locals likely still will be calling the Abbey for longer than new owners Michele and Chris Redding would like. But such are the burdens one assumes when resurrecting a local institution.
The ACT, as the Reddings (and some word-stingy scribes) hope it will be called, technically opened last week with a two-night run of Magic by Eli. But the teenaged illusionist had to dodge construction equipment and sawdust as much of the renovations were not completed.
That shouldn’t be the case for Saturday’s concert by Souls of Mischief. A final push this week by the construction crews, led by Chris Redding, should have the ACT ready for what likely will be a near-sellout crowd.
The new-look ACT will more resemble the old Abbey Theatre than the most recent incarnation. Venue manager Eugene Salaz, who also heads the local music promotion company Durango Massive, used to do bookings for the Abbey and said the venue had been averaging about four shows per month during the last two or three years and had stopped showing movies, as well.
The Reddings, who also own neighboring Cuckoo’s Chicken House, will allow Salaz to continue booking acts at other venues in town, including The Summit and Moe’s. He wants to see more cooperation and coordination between the venues; shows at the ACT typically will end by about midnight to allow crowds to visit other venues for some late-night music. At the ACT, he’s got about 15 confirmed concerts coming in the next few months. Longtime tech whizzes Kelly Rogers and Johnny Allen of Lightning Communications will handle lights and sound duties.
“We want to take it to the level where we’ll be the venue where people talk about how they saw these incredible acts in a 300-seat venue,” Salaz said.
And Jane Julian, a local cinephile who has booked films for the Back Space Theatre, Allen Theatres and Durango Film Festival, already has two sure draws lined up in her new gig booking for the ACT. “20 Feet from Stardom” will open Aug. 30, and Woody Allen’s critically acclaimed “Blue Jasmine” is coming Sept. 13 for a two-week run.
The movie screen went in Thursday, but the new digital projector still is a week or so away from installation. When it arrives, the ACT will be one of just a few single-screen digital cinemas in the country.
Still on order are about 150 seats. The standing-room capacity of the theater currently is 269, but a new sprinkler system and repairs to the upstairs fire escape could push it to about 300.
As for the seats, Michele Redding said finding the right ones was about the hardest task she had during the renovation process. She finally found the right ones, but those aren’t here yet, either.
“We had to find something comfortable that people can sit in for two hours watching a movie, but they have to be removable and stackable, too,” she said. “A local church had some that seemed perfect, so we tested them and then ordered them. And we found some cup-holders that fit, so that’s a huge thing off my mind.”
Redding and Salaz said one of their primary concerns in booking entertainment and events is to work with other venues to avoid repetition, with so many venues for live music on a given night – the Lost Dog, Moe’s, Irish Embassy, Henry Strater Theatre, Derailed Pour House, Wild Horse Saloon, the Balcony and The Summit – and that’s just on Main Avenue.
“The way it’s been going, when we don’t talk to each other, it’s like we used to create our own competition, but it can all complement itself instead,” Salaz said.
Charles Leslie, director of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, stopped by the ACT earlier this week for a look-in. He said that instead of seeing the ACT as a competing venue, it presents an opportunity for the Concert Hall to expand its own reach. He cited the increased popularity of small-ensemble chamber music, which increasingly is performed in less traditional venues such as bars and small clubs, as an example.
“We all fill a certain niche,” Leslie said. “And the possibilities of working together are exciting. I can see us bringing artists here to introduce them on a smaller level before they play a larger concert in the Concert Hall.”
Redding said she’s ready to put past drama behind and move forward. The transition in ownership was a well-documented and, at times, messy situation, but none of the principals in the new venture are dwelling on that history. She said she hopes the theater once again can be a community hub serving a wide range of clientele.
“We just want to be good neighbors,” Redding said.