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October 20, 2017

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Joe Downtown: Online fundraising goal achieved, organizers give thanks for help with the Huntridge


Leila Navidi

Members of Huntridge Revival, LLC hold a community meeting at The Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 18, 2013 after exceeding their first fundraising goal to discuss the next steps toward reopening the historic Huntridge Theater.

Huntridge Revival Meeting

Joey Vanas, left, and Michael Cornthwaite of Huntridge Revival, LLC hold a community meeting at The Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 18, 2013 after exceeding their first fundraising goal to discuss the next steps toward reopening the historic Huntridge Theater. Launch slideshow »

Huntridge Theater

An exterior view of the Huntridge Theater on the southeast corner of East Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. Designed by architect S. Charles Lee, the theatre opened on October 10, 1944. It  has been closed since January 1, 2002. Launch slideshow »

Huntridge Theater Tour

Michael Cornthwaite gives Edythe Katz, one of the early owners of the the Huntridge Theater, a tour of the dilapidated theater Thursday, June 27, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Move to Las Vegas, make a boatload of money, then go back to where you came from.

It's the path of transience so many have taken in southern Nevada over the decades, it's almost as cliche as Vegas neon.

Which makes what happened over the last five weeks all the more remarkable, as Michael Cornthwaite pointed out Thursday night.

Cornthwaite, a downtown businessman, and events planner Joey Vanas held a press conference/community handshake at the the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada to celebrate the 741 people who contributed $207,000 through an online fundraising campaign to resurrect the 69-year-old Huntridge Theater in downtown Las Vegas.

Vanas also announced that some $500,000 of in-kind services have also been donated for everything from lighting systems to engineering.

Raising that much money online through is rare, according to those who follow that kind of thing; the Save The Huntridge campaign might be only the fifth to raise more than $100,000 via the online crowdfunding platform.

Along with more than 100 others who turned out Thursday night, Cornthwaite expressed what many were thinking, not disbelief so much as gratification

"I haven't seen people jell together like this in a long time," he said. "This is a long journey but we are well on our way."

Vanas then named off several local businesses that have signed letters of commitment to provide some of the free services to the Huntridge revival effort: $50,000 from Penta Building Group for pre-construction work; $50,000 from Augustus West LLC for finishing and furniture; Raster Media's $50,000 for web development; Reynolds & Assocs., $50,000 in legal services; Desert Fire Protection, $50,000 to get the building's fire sprinklers up to code; Rich, Wightman and Co., CPAs, $50,000 in services; E320 Entertainment Group, $100,000 in audio equipment and engineering services; and Alios, $75,000 in lighting services.

"Everyone jumping on board has snowballed into such a massive support group for this thing," Vanas added.

Now comes perhaps the more difficult part: finding groups or people to invest $4 million to purchase the building from the Mizrachis, who have held it for about 10 years; then another $11 million to renovate the place. When finished, the main theater will be a music venue; another building that used to be called "The Sanctuary" will become the only place in town to find independent or foreign films; and plans are for some sort of food and beverage business in the third building.

The plan, Cornthwaite added, is to reopen by the end of 2015.

People in the audience asked several questions at the end of the presentation. Someone brought up the question of a potential state inquiry into whether terms of an agreement between the Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs and Huntridge owners had been violated. The owners before the Mizrachis received $765,000 from the state but under the order that the theater had to follow some guidelines. That included keeping it in good shape and being open to the public at least 12 days a year.

If the state finds the agreement wasn't followed, someone asked, might the $4 million asking price for the theater be reduced?

Vanas replied that he and Cornthwaite have signed a contract to buy the building for $4 million. "It is not our intent to renegotiate," he added. "We're not looking to renege on the agreement already in place."

Vanas credited the work of up to 40 volunteers, including a core of five to 10 who worked out of "The Pit," a downtown home on Franklin Avenue, across the street from Vanas' house. That's where people like David Anderson worked tirelessly on the Indiegogo campaign.

Having moved here in December from San Francisco, Anderson was drawn to the community-oriented message being fostered downtown. A veteran of online crowdfunding, he is largely responsible for getting the campaign off the ground and expressed gratitude for how it turned out.

He was still at it Thursday, selling black "Save The Huntridge" T-shirts in the back of the room. His next project: Finding a job so he can stay in Las Vegas to see the Huntridge reopen.

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