While traveling down Main Street in Radford, citizens may have noticed the cryptic message hanging in the marquee at the Radford Theatre, which closed its doors at the end of April when owner/operator Frankie Kirk ended his 30-year run and retired.
“Coming Soon…,” it reads on one side.
The other asks, “Are you ready?”
The answer new owners Paul Pallante, Josh Riggs, James Houston and Mohsin Kazmi are looking for from the town is simply, “Yes.”
And with the buzz the four have generated since they purchased the business and leased the theatre from building owner Jeff Price of Price Williams Realty on May 13, they may just get it.
“We’ve gotten over 25,000 views on our 1-minute promotional video on our Facebook site since early Tuesday morning,” Pallante said. “The support from the community so far has been wonderful, and we want to start things off by sending a giant ‘Thank You’ to everyone for that.”
Pallante, Riggs and Houston opened the doors of the theatre to the News Messenger on Wednesday afternoon. Its lobby was filled with construction materials and covered in a sheen of sawdust. Craftsmen popped in and out of its various rooms, carrying lumber. The theatre, Houston said, is getting a facelift, courtesy of the building’s owner.
“The construction going on now is mostly cosmetic,” he explained. “We’re taking down some of the old paneling, pulling up the old carpets in the lobby and concessions area, and giving the theatre a fresh face.”
Pallante added, “We’re staying true to the venue’s history and heritage. We’re just brightening it up, cleaning it up, not changing it.”
As to why the four purchased the theatre in the first place, Houson, Pallante and Riggs were quick to respond.
“We all have film backgrounds, and this is a passion project for us,” Houston explained. “This is about the love of film, the love of business and downtown Radford. We’re all from here one way or another — we’ve been here a long time and grew up with this theatre as a part of our lives. It was tragic to think of it vacant, empty, running down and becoming nothing.”
“This place has so much potential as an anchor for downtown Radford,” Pallante expounded. “It has potential for movies as well as music, concerts and live theatre. We want to integrate it more into the community and expand its reach, make it more accessible to everyone.”
The theatre, which has a working theatrical stage behind the silver screen, will be put to use in the future as a performance space for local bands, musicians, actors and theatre troupes, and anything else that wants to utilize it.
“This space can be used for so many things, and we’re open to all kinds of different opportunities to use it,” Riggs said. “The main thing we want to get across is to let everyone know we’re pro-Radford and pro growth.”
The four reached a deal with Kirk and Price, which allowed them to quickly take over the theatre and get started right away with the renovation.
“We’re all happy, Jeff Price is happy, Frankie’s happy about it — we were all able to construct a deal that everyone was happy with, so we didn’t want to waste any time getting started,” Houston said. Kirk, he said, would also be around, adding his 30 years of experience to the pot. “He’s retired, but he’ll be helping out as a consultant. He has an open ticket here.”
As for when the venue and its fresh face will open, nothing’s been set in stone. The owners are shooting for mid-June though, and say it will open with a bang.
“We’re going to do this one big,” Pallante said. “Super big. We’re going to get a big film and have a big opening event for everyone to come, check this place out and see what we’re all about.”
“We’re going to work night and day until then,” Houston added.
By Aaron Atkins