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#5 New life for downtown theater

Will Fort Mill’s downtown theater make a comeback?

The answer is yes – if Paul Finnican’s investment plan that needs 400 equity partners is able to attract enough support.

“The jury is still out,” Finnican, the owner of The Sylvia theater in York said. “We’ve got a long ways before we get to 400.”

If each equity partner contributed nearly $4,000, Finnican’s plan would generate more than $1 million for the project.

Finnican’s goal is to revive and revamp the town’s former movie theater into a multi-purpose entertainment venue that could include a movie theater.

“I’m excited that it’s a private venture,” Mayor Danny Funderburk said. “The town is not going to have to foot the bill. The town will derive a great benefit from it if the project is successful.”Councilwoman Guynn Savage added, “It’s a very doable and exciting project. I hope it happens.”

The investors, or equity owners, would financially support the project with a $3,800 contribution, Finnican said. The 5,000-square-foot building, located at 100 Main St., is owned by Chip Smith, who signed a long-term lease with the town for $1 a year.

“My vision is that the real estate and all the equipment is owned by a few hundred people,” said Finnican, who has held several informational meetings about his equity partnership at Fort Mill’s BacInTyme. “They own what would be like shares.”

Finnican hopes to start collecting deposits in February. Deposits are $300 per equity partner.

Though investors will not see any initial return for their contributions, being an equity partner comes with perks, such as first rights to seating, first dibs on free, unsold event tickets and a voice in which shows come to the multi-purpose venue. After construction, investors also will see a financial return of “about 1 percent that will go up by 1 percent a year leveling off to 5 percent,” Finnican said.

Momentum is growing for the plan. Jim Brachfeld plans to contribute to the one-time investment.

“I think it should be more money,” he said.

BacInTyme owner Georgia Ehrenberg also supports the project.

“Absolutely,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Laura Kendrick, an actress who calls Fort Mill home, took a walk around the defunct theater’s interior.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “There’s so much potential.”

Like Brachfeld and Ehrenberg, Kendrick also pledged to support the equity partnership.

“I definitely would,” she said. “This will succeed. There is no doubt in my mind.”

The next informational meeting is planned for next month. It will be held at 6:30 Jan. 13, 2010, at the Grapevine in Baxter Village in Fort Mill. For more details, e-mail Finnican at pauldidwell@aol.