Action! Rodger's Theatre renovation under way
Renovation of the Rodgers Theatre – one of the few giant single-screen movie theaters left in the state – has been discussed for years, ever since the Corning-owned icon shut its doors in 2006. Many had given up hope.
But talk has finally evolved into action.
During its last meeting, the city council give a nod of approval to the Corning Community Foundation in the form of $220,000 to be used on the rehabilitation project.
"The foundation approached the city about using some of its park bond funds for the renovation project," said City Manager Steve Kimbrough. "We had to apply with the state for approval and we finally received that approval from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to use the funds on the theater."
That amount, along with the $50,000 raised by the Friends of the Rodgers Theatre committee, gives the foundation $270,000 for the project.
City staff also applied for and has received tentative approval for a grant through the California Energy Commission, which includes $27,500 for the theater's heating/air conditioning system, according to the city manager.
Kyle Lauderdale, foundation president, said the foundation prioritized a scope of work plan for the renovation project that places reroofing at the top of the list to avoid any further damage to the interior of the structure. Following in order of priority is demolition work of the interior of the auditorium and installation of new concrete flooring, rough plumbing and rough electrical work, then restoration of the exterior face of the building and front lobby.
"Based upon the most current construction estimates the foundation has received, this work will cost approximately $275,000," Lauderdale said. "It is anticipated the majority of the demolition work of phase two will be done by volunteers and donated equipment."
The estimate is based on prevailing wage and does not factor in the savings of volunteer labor, he stated.
Re-roofing of the building will include installation of rough-in duct work for the future heating/air conditioning system and restoration of the buildings front will include re-coloring the stucco, installing new ceramic tiles, installing new entry doors and exterior carpeting.
And now there is an urgency to the task as the city learned the funds must be expended by September.
Unfortunately, even with the foundation's prioritized renovations completed by that time, the theater won't be ready to open and an additional $200,000 would be needed to complete the remaining required renovations, which include completion of all electrical work, new floor in lobby, and new seating.
There is good news, according to Kimbrough.
"The building walls, and steel trusses are structurally sound," he said.
The 74-year-old building was originally owned by the Warren Rodgers family and was endowed to the city in 1991 by his sons, Daniel and Wealthy Rodgers, along with a $50,000 Rodgers Family Trust Fund for upkeep.
Over the years the theater had been a mainstay of entertainment for the city's residents, featuring many premiere-night movies such as "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter."
Time took its toll and the theater needed major repairs, which were much more costly than the city could afford, leading to its closure in 2006.
Right away the community began to rally around the old icon and created the Friends of the Rodgers Theater committee to raise funds to renovate the theater.
The Corning Community Foundation, a state recognized nonprofit organization was formed last year to facilitate the restoration of the theater and has worked closely with the Friends of the Rodgers Theatre committee.
During the past few years, the city used some of the money in the Rodgers Family Trust Fund to restore the theater's marquee and neon lighting and clean up the inside of the building in preparation for repairs.
In an effort to continue raising additional funds, the theater's marquee is rented out to clubs, organizations, groups and individuals for display purposes.