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Board denies Artcraft funding request

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A historic theater in downtown Franklin is trying to bring in more live shows and is seeking tax dollars to help pay for upgrades to the stage and dressing rooms.

The Artcraft Theatre hosted 35,000 people last year for movie nights and events, but the improvements would allow the theater to host more live shows during the week. A vaudeville show already has been booked for March, and others are scheduled starting in June, Franklin Heritage director Rob Shilts said.

The Franklin Redevelopment denied a request for $100,000 in tax-increment financing dollars toward those projects this week because the non-profit group already had another pending grant. Franklin Heritage hasn’t collected any of the $100,000 in tax dollars promised by the Franklin Development Corp. last year. Franklin Heritage has to raise $200,000 to get the full $100,000 grant.

Now Franklin Heritage leaders will review how much they’ve collected from fundraising events to see if they can draw those grant funds and pay for the upgrades, Shilts said.

Franklin Heritage is likely already close to reaching the $200,000 match. An anonymous donor had promised $150,000 toward new projects, although that donation hasn’t come in yet. The group has raised about $26,500 of an $80,000 goal to replace curtains and rigging on the stage. And the group has already spent about $10,000 since last year updating wiring it might be able to claim toward the total, Shilts said.

Franklin Heritage has focused on renovating the building and establishing the weekend movie series during the first 10 years since buying the theater. Hosting more live shows will be a focus for the next 10 years, Shilts said. In order to book more events, the theater needs to upgrade curtains and rigging on the stage, fix the leaky roof and renovate dressing rooms and green rooms attached to the theater.

The theater already has booked the vaudeville show in March and summer shows will include the Glen Miller Orchestra, Branson on the Road musical act and a silent movie showing of Phantom of the Opera with a live orchestra providing the music, Shilts said.

The redevelopment commission gave $150,000 to Franklin Heritage about four years ago. That money helped pay for building repairs because the marquee was tearing away from the building. The money also allowed Franklin Heritage to restore the historic facade. After those fixes were made to the building, the theater started consistently drawing more viewers each weekend and has grown into the attraction it is now, Shilts said.

Franklin Heritage also recently hosted its annual fundraiser and those proceeds go toward supporting the movie nights for the year. But once the money is counted, Shilts will see if there is any of that total that can also be put toward the $200,000 match.

Franklin Heritage it doesn’t need to raise all the money at once and could get smaller payouts from the Franklin Development Corp. as funds are available. For example, if Franklin Heritage raised $50,000, the non-profit could collect $25,000 in grant funds, Shilts said. That could help the group get a start on some projects in anticipation of the shows booked for summer, he said.

“I would love to have a number of these things in place certainly by June when we have Glen Miller,” Shilts said.

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