Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Holly Theater Opposition-An Unfortunate Development
The public discussion in Medford over the possibility for the restoration of the Holly Theater by the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation has taken an odd and somewhat disappointing turn. While most downtown advocates have for years worried about the future of this key landmark and hoped for the best, the actual possibility that it might now be restored seems to have struck fear in the heart of a small but vocal and well-connected segment of the population. There are those who, apparently, are unable to see a restored Holly as anything other than a direct threat to the Craterian, Medford’s existing performing arts center. You can read more here: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101116/NEWS/11160307
The Ginger Rogers Craterian Performing Arts Center, is housed in a structure that is loosely based on the historic Craterian Theater, a 1924-era building that was essentially demolished and then rebuilt in the mid-1990s. Many of the Crate’s supporters have decided, with little actual information, that the only way a restored Holly will succeed is by stealing its audience and most of its funding from the Craterian, a theater that has struggled financially in recent years. The concept that restored Holly might draw a different audience (it would) and increase downtown activity or Medford's reputation as an arts center, is not even considered. This despite the fact that nobody involved with the Holly expects to put on musical theater or the other fare that serve as Craterian staples, or that the Holly's sister-theater, the Cascade, is largely self-supporting on ticket and rental sales, avoiding the need for the major underwriting that backfills the bulk of the Craterian's expenses. A not-so terribly subtle campaign, including all the nasty-web/reader response comments we can expect in the Internet age, has essentially accused JPR of interloping on the Crate’s turf and put reasonable people on either side of this issue, all of which complicates, and perhaps entirely undermines, the likelihood that the Holly Project will actually go forward.
It is truly unfortunate that an incredible opportunity to return a long-vacant landmark to glory may fail, not due to lack of will, or lack of vision, or even at the moment lack of funding, but instead from misinformation, fear, and what is hard to see as anything other than mild paranoia. Many communities that are Medford’s size or smaller, boast more than one successful entertainment venue. This is especially valid given the fact that downtown Medford’s market by all rights includes other communities throughout southern Oregon and northern California, rather coincidentally the very multi-county market that JPR serves with its radio network and its already restored Cascade Theatre, in Redding, California.
In Medford the Craterian and a restored Holly could easily work together, even sharing some some functions like booking that would reduce expenses for each. Two theaters could enhance Medford's entertainment reputation and build a new and larger audience for both. Doing so would, of course, also bolster every other aspect of downtown Medford and could bring new people by the 100s into the city's restaurants and retail outlets.
That is if the Holly ever gets a chance. Stay tuned.