Odeum Theatre Board President Bruce Rollins appeared before the Town Council Monday night and reported shows could resume as early as October in the Main Street theater. He also said he has been talking with Steve Erinakes, who converted the former movie house into a non-profit theater in the 1990s, about a way to resolve questions about ownership of the theater.
Although the Odeum reopened last January with much goodwill and excitement, sales for some of the succeeding shows were disappointing and left the corporation in debt. In June the board decided to close for a few months to regroup. Among the actions was to replace longtime board president Frank Prosnitz. Prosnitz remains on the board.
"We decided we needed to do more aggressive fundraising and we also decided we needed to look at the composition of the board," Rollins told council members.
"What is the status of the mortgage?" asked Councilor Jeff Cianciolo. "Has there been any closure on the mortgage?"
"At this point there has not been any closure," Rollins said. "Stephen Erinakes and I had a number of conversations over the summer to try to figure out if there's a way we can amiably come to some closure on that."
In July 2012, then-board member Jeff Gladstone told the Town Council the promisory note between the Erinakes family and the Odeum Corporation was no longer valid. “At this point there is no legal obligation to pay back the note,” Gladstone said in a interview in July 2012. “We are the owners of the property. There is no question to a certainty that we own the property."
Erinakes vehemently disagreed with that assessment. “In their mind, they acquired a piece of property for nothing," he said at the time.
Rollins said Monday the board wants to "work something out between the corporation and his family," referring to the Erinakeses. It's not clear what that would be.
Council members asked Rollins why they should continue to grant the theater a tax abatement since it is again closed. In particular, Councilor Mike Kiernan wondered if the theater could be profitable.
"I think the current makeup of the board is very much committed to making it a viable business," Rollins said.
He said they were working to secure funding to be able to show movies, since all sorts of people have expressed an interest in attending films there. In addition, they are moving away from booking tribute bands, and are in talks with organizations such as the Warwick Symphony, Rocky Hill School and Trinity Rep, all of whom have expressed interest in renting the space.
When asked what the Odeum needs from the community, Rollins said, "We'd like the community to make donations to the theater. We'd like the community to step forward and become volunteers.... We'd like the community to buy tickets."