The Lynn Theatre has stood as an attractive beacon near the corner of St. Paul and St. Lawrence Streets since it was built it 1947. It shut down in 2020 due to financial issues as it had on other occasions. Although the COVID-19 pandemic certainly disrupted entertainment-based businesses like movie theatres, the Lynn had faced difficulties before. Despite the cost of maintenance and utilities for such a large facility, many stakeholders and movie-goers alike have voiced their wish to see it become viable again.
Gonzales Economic Development Corporation has owned the building since the 2020 closure, though that was not the intention when the board entered into loan agreements meant to help private owners complete repairs and improvements over the past decade.
“Unfortunately, the initial borrower was not able to sustain the business and GEDC foreclosed on the loan and became the building owner,” explained Economic Development Director Jennifer Kolbe.
This process has repeated more than once and the most recent operator also fell behind on a lease purchase agreement.
“The board made the difficult business decision to close,” said Kolbe, because its members “could not allow a for-profit business to collect money and not make required lease payments. It did not make good business sense.”
The board has worked to maintain the building, though Kolbe explained that GEDC does not have plans to operate a movie theatre business and that the building is for sale. The goal is getting the property back on the tax role, occupied with a project that will add value to downtown and to the community.
“This past year, GEDC had the building professionally cleaned, had repairs made to the marque and had a new roof installed. We think this will set the next owner up for success for years to come,” Kolbe said.
Though she said the board would welcome a buyer whose purpose was to reopen the movie theatre, other business models would also be considered.
James Lawrence moved from Lewisville to Gonzales in 2014 and the Lynn was open at the time.
“I was going to the movies more often at the time than I had in the last fifteen years before that. I went there to see movies like ‘The Golden Circle’ or ‘A Dog’s Life’ and others like that,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence has communicated his interest to city council in forming a nonprofit organization to reopen and manage the theatre. He said he hoped to drum up fundraising options for the idea in a meeting with a few other supporters on Wednesday. Online crowdsourcing options like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo have not yet been initiated for this project. Lawrence expressed concerns the property may be sold before he and other citizens have successfully formed a group and raised the necessary capital to purchase the building and that another buyer may choose to repurpose it.
“I think the theatre adds a lot to this square when it’s operating. Having been here and having seen it, I think it’s an asset to downtown and an asset to the city. It helps other local businesses,” said Lawrence, who expressed concern that Gonzales residents must go out of town to see a movie, taking their dining and shopping dollars elsewhere when they go.
Many downtown business owners and Gonzales residents seem to agree that the theatre could
contribute to the overall quality of life in their town. A recent online poll by the Gonzales Inquirer, which had 158 total responses by Tuesday afternoon suggested that there would be support for reopening. Of those responses, 92 people said they would pay to watch movies at the Lynn Theatre again. There were 59 respondents who thought it would be great for the community. Only seven responded that they did not think it would work well because it had been tried and was not successful in the past. None of the responses indicated a complete lack of interest.
Business owners Rene Garcia (Gonzales Food Market) and Sarah Tenberg (Main Street Market Place) felt that the theatre has been good for business when it has been open and both said they would like to see it open again.
Tiffany Hutchinson, owner of Come and Crepe it on St. Joseph Street supports the idea of reopening the theatre.
“I don’t want there to be any empty buildings downtown. A movie theatre adds charm and I’m a movie lover anyway,” said Hutchinson.
“GEDC will consider any written offers to purchase the facility and will consult with its legal counsel on the best legal pathway forward to proceed with the sale should a valid contract with earnest money be delivered to GEDC staff,” said Kolbe.
While GEDC has fielded several inquiries, Kolbe stated that no written offers had been presented.