Saving Historic Theatres

| Tuesday, May 20 | 9 a.m - 10:15 a.m. | Room: Brule A | Session Tracks: ST, RE, BD



Saving Historic Theaters Presentation

And now . . . for the MAIN ATTRACTION . . . Unfortunately, these words have disappeared from the screens of many historic theaters across America, particularly in small towns and urban districts where independent theaters are struggling to survive. The theatre crisis, which has been with us for many years, has been exacerbated by recently imposed distributor deadlines for theaters to purchase digital equipment, an added burden on small-town and independent operations. Hear how towns have successfully saved, restored, upgraded, and repurposed historic theatres—and how one state has launched a grants program for these threatened enterprises!

Download supplemental materials here.


Carol Dyson, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Carol Dyson is the chief architect at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, where for over 27 years she has been privileged to work with a wide variety of historic building rehabilitations, including theatre projects that range from the 4,000-seat Auditorium Theater in Chicago to the 500-seat Phoenix Opera House in Rushville, Illinois. Her agency also provides preservation and design training for the Illinois Main Street Program. Previously Carol served as a deputy historic preservation officer for the federal government in Washington, D.C., and worked for a preservation architecture firm in Ohio. In her spare time Carol teaches a course on preservation of the more recent past at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program.

Elmo Baca, New Mexico MainStreet
Elmo Baca is a program associate for historic and cultural projects with the New Mexico Main Street Program in the Economic Development Department. He manages the state’s Historic Theater Initiative, the only program of its kind in the country to invest directly in downtown theaters. He is also the author of a number of books on New Mexico’s architectural and cultural heritage. Elmo is a former director of New Mexico Main Street, former State Historic Preservation Officer of New Mexico, and New Mexico Advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He has operated five movie theaters in his career.

Sam Dixon, Dixon & Thompson, PLLC
Sam Dixon practices law at his firm, Dixon & Thompson, PLLC, and is serving his fourth term as an elected town councilman for Edenton, North Carolina, where he is the chairman of the budget committee. He helped lead the effort to save the town’s historic movie theater. He is a current member of the National Main Street Center board of trustees and a former board member of Preservation North Carolina.

Bob Karls, City of Pontiac, Illinois
Bob Karls is city administrator of Pontiac, Illinois, a position he has held for 32 years. In that capacity he has spearheaded many of the downtown’s revitalization efforts, including placing the city in a leadership role in historic property development. He received the 2008 Main Street Civic Leadership Award. Prior to coming to Pontiac, he was city administrator for six years in Smithville, Missouri. Bob holds a B.A. degree from Evangel College and an M.B.A. from the University of Missouri in Kansas City.