Art Theater closing1

A farewell message was put up Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, on the marquee of the Art Theater in downtown Champaign. 

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CHAMPAIGN — The owner of the building that houses the Art Theater in downtown Champaign has given the theater’s foundation 10 days notice that he will repossess it.

The Art Film Foundation ceased operations Thursday, citing financial concerns.

“It is my goal to obtain possession of the theater and all of its assets as soon as possible, in order to secure a future for the space,” said David Kraft, owner of the structure at 126 W. Church St., which has also housed apartments.

“Though the Art Film Foundation quit on the theater and the community, I am honoring the terms of the lease, and have served the foundation with a 10-day notice demanding that they cure their default,” Kraft said.

There was no reply from the foundation Saturday afternoon.

The theater, built in 1913, has had several brushes with closure in recent years.

In February, the foundation announced that it needed $25,000 in 25 days to continue operations.

In 2012, the Art became the only cooperatively owned movie theater in the country, which helped it buy a new digital projector and keep its doors open. But that ownership arrangement did not allow for raising tax-deductible funds, so in May 2017, members of the co-op approved a merger with the foundation, a nonprofit charity that had been founded two years earlier.

Previous owner Sanford Hess said the theater has not made enough money for him to pay himself back for the loan he gave Art Theater Inc. in its initial stages.

The theater closed briefly in 2003, and Kraft sought another buyer.


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).