A proposed expansion of the County Theater in downtown Doylestown will cost approximately $4.2 million — including design, construction, contingency, furniture and equipment — with $1.5 million received so far, according to its executive director.
The nonprofit County Theater purchased the neighboring “Poor Richards” property in 2016 and the historic theater will soon be expanding with a new addition.
The new space will include a new auditorium, a new lobby with expanded concession stand, and a complete set of first-floor bathrooms.
The existing historic theater will stay the same, but will receive new seats and other upgrades.
“The vision for the theater is to preserve, restore and maintain our historic landmark,” Executive Director John Toner told a packed theater last Thursday night. “This significant expansion will allow us to present more films, more special events and more community partnerships. It will also help us generate a sustainable income.”
Toner presented the proposed expansion to the public during an evening work meeting Sept. 27.
The County Theater opened in 1938 and then re-opened as a nonprofit in 1993. The nonprofit organization purchased the theater in 1996 and then purchased the adjacent property in 2016.
For more than two years, the County Theater’s board and staff have planned the theater’s expansion. They held nine public meetings with members and friends. They talked to borough staff and neighbors and received over 900 responses to a public survey. The board listened carefully to the public’s input and suggestions, Toner said.
The County Theater board then hired architectural firm Voith and Mactavish of Philadelphia, which has prepared plans and cost estimates.
“We worked very hard to make the expansion impressive but not to be overwhelming because we still want the historic theater to be the focal point,” Toner said.
The proposed expansion will enhance disabled access, restroom facilities and provide other improvements. It also will allow for better crowd flow.
“On busy nights, our lobby becomes crowded very quickly, and entry and exit is always challenging. The expansion will more than double the lobby space, which will allow people to talk and socialize,” he said.
Toner said additional restrooms and concessions are also important aspects of the project.
He said he is excited about the project but added it wouldn’t be possible without the community working together.
“It is critical that the County Theater’s new addition blend in with Doylestown’s traditional architecture,” Toner said. “It also needs to harmonize with our distinctive, art deco theater.
“This really is a partnership of this community and, most importantly, the people of the community who have rallied behind our efforts,” Toner said.
Toner also said that the theater has received a matching gift pledge from a generous donor. If the theater and its members can raise $500,000 by the end of 2018, it will receive an additional $250,000 matching gift. That will then allow the theater project to “put a shovel in the ground,” said Toner.
More information about the County Theater Expansion Project can be found on the theater’s website at CountyTheater.org/expansion.