The Crandell Theatre board of directors in Chatham, New York, announced today that it has raised $2 million of its $3 million Capital Campaign to renovate the theater and establish an endowment to sustain the theater well into the future. One million dollars has been raised towards the renovation cost of $2 million, and an initial pledge of $1 million has been received for the endowment. The theater renovation will include upgrading the audio system, expansion of the lobby and concession area, additional modernized restrooms, replacement of seats, and creation of functional staff workspace and storage.
The Crandell is currently closed because of the pandemic. The board anticipates reopening the Crandell in summer 2021 (based upon state health guidelines and financial feasibility) and producing the FilmColumbia Festival in the fall. Depending upon the progress of the fundraising campaign, construction is scheduled for January 2022, reopening in time for FilmColumbia in late 2022. Joel Merker is the architect for the project; Chad Lindberg, principal of Taconic Engineering, is doing the engineering work. Both are based in Chatham.
Lydia Kukoff, president of the board of directors, said, “We are very much aware of the important role the Crandell plays in the community and in the region. The Crandell has provided a vibrant beacon on Main Street, Chatham, for nearly 100 years. We look forward to preserving the historic character of the Crandell, while enhancing the current movie-viewer’s experience. We want long-time supporters to feel that what they love about the Crandell has been enhanced; and we want a new generation to find its own traditions in a renovated 21st century facility. We are delighted that Crandell board member Nick Van Alstine is chairing the effort to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the project.”
The Crandell, located on Main Street in Chatham, was built in 1926 as a venue for traveling vaudeville shows and movies, then America’s principal mode of popular entertainment. In 1929, sound speakers were added in order to screen “talkies.” The Spanish Renaissance–style building has been largely unchanged since it opened. With over 500 seats, the Crandell is among the few remaining single-screen movie theaters in the country. For 50 years the theater was owned by the Quirino family. In 2010, the Crandell was purchased by the Chatham Film Club, with generous contributions from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, Judy Grunberg, and Lael Locke, who led the community effort to save the historic theater.
Annually, the Crandell produces FilmColumbia, a highly-regarded film festival, recognized in 2020 by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” Film writer and historian Peter Biskind is the co-artistic director of the festival along with Larry Kardish, former senior film curator at the Museum of Modern Art. Calliope Nicholas is managing director. All three are long-term members of the Crandell board. In 2019 FilmColumbia celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The Crandell also hosts a series of community screenings, including the Farm Film Festival in conjunction with the Chatham Agricultural Partnership and the Columbia Land Conservancy. An After School Program engages aspiring filmmakers in Columbia County middle schools. County libraries receive financial support for streaming fees to provide films for their audiences.
In 2018, the name of the non-profit organization was changed from Chatham Film Club to Crandell Theatre. Crandell Theatre is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, incorporated in the State of New York. The annual budget is approximately $550,000, half of which is obtained through earned revenue. The other half is generated by memberships, individual contributions, foundations, and grants. The Crandell receives general operating support from the New York State Council on the Arts. For information concerning the Crandell, visit the website crandelltheatre.org, or contact the Crandell Office at 518-392-3445 for a copy of the 990 form on file with the Internal Revenue Service.