CHAMPAIGN – After a delay of one week, Boardman's Art Theatre will open Saturday with the hit movies "Chicago" and "Spider-Man" and show the films for free all week.
The grand opening, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, also will feature a searchlight over Champaign and guest speaker John F. Allen, who designed the sound system for the theater and has done sound for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Allen will discuss the Art Theatre's new system, which includes 16 Klipsch speakers on the walls and behind a new, perforated, 26-foot-wide screen. After Allen speaks, "Chicago" will start around 7:30 p.m. and "Spider-Man" about 10 p.m.
The theater at 126 W. Church St., C, will revert to a paying one June 27 with the Champaign-Urbana premiere of director/playwright Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things." LaBute was a guest at this year's Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival.
In recent weeks, the former New Art Theatre has been undergoing extensive renovation. Building owner David Kraft had the floors painted, work done on the ceiling tiles and ceiling fans installed. Also, new acoustic material has been added at the theater's rear. Other areas were remodeled as well, including the restrooms, lobby and office.
The concession area will feature the usual popcorn and soda pop but will add coffee and tea; pizza; soft pretzels, including stuffed pretzels; and Great Harvest baked goods such as muffins and brownies.
The New Art Theatre, which opened as The Park and showed silent films, closed in February under the previous owner.
Theater manager Aaron Polk said Boardman's Art Theatre will show predominantly art, foreign and independent films. He said he and owner Greg Boardman are considering retro-film midnight showings on weekends, and Polk said he has been discussing with the University of Illinois showing films on behalf of its departments. Polk said Boardman's Art Theatre might be involved in the Overlooked Film Festival, a special event of the College of Communications, as well.
Tickets to Boardman's Art Theatre will be $5.50 before 6 p.m. and $7.50 after 6 p.m., with students and senior citizens getting in for $5.50 for all shows. The previous New Art Theatre passes will be honored through 2003.
Polk said that Boardman is considering establishing a gift certificate system and a customer card that is stamped with each admission, giving one free admission for every 10 paid ones.
Boardman was en route here Tuesday and unavailable for comment.
Boardman, who lives in California but is from the Rossville area in Vermilion County, also owns the Lorraine Theatre in Hoopeston in Vermilion County.
A Web site (www.boardmanstheatres.com ) will have links to both theaters and will allow people to reserve tickets and seating online.
Polk, a theater actor, writer and director, previously worked for GKC Theaters and managed a video store in Champaign.
"I was a big fan of this theater," he said.
"Part of me taking this job was a desire in keeping this theater open. I know how important this theater is to the culture of this area, and that's important to me. I know the theater has quite a following."
Melissa Merli may be reached at (217) 351-5367 or firstname.lastname@example.org .