Dundasians driving effort to restore, protect Westdale Theatre

News Feb 24, 2017 by Craig Campbell Dundas Star News

One day after Fred Fuchs and Bob Crockford, both of Dundas, formed the nonprofit Westdale Cinema Group with a plan to acquire and restore the historic theatre, they heard an offer had just been made.

The pressure was on, and the group's board — which also includes Jeremy Freiburger of Cobalt Connects and Graham Crawford — had to act fast and make its offer.

Outside the theatre this week, Fuchs said the first offer did not appear to be from someone interested in protecting the structure and using it as a theatre.

"This is a project that has to happen," Fuchs said, adding the owners have a deal with the current owner and will complete their due diligence on Feb. 28 and aim to close the sale at the end of April.

"Too many of these theatres have been chopped up," he said.

The theatre was suddenly put up for sale in late December at an asking price of $1,799,000,  surprising both Fuchs and Crockford, who had already been dreaming about making an offer. Fuchs didn't say what the purchase offer was, but estimated restoration and improvements alone will cost the group $1 million.

"But it will be around for the next 50 years. That's why we're doing it," he said.

Fuchs and Crockford have gotten to know each other over the past year and a half. Chatting over coffee, Fuchs shared his vision of the Westdale Theatre being rejuvenated and providing a home for several Hamilton film festivals.

Crockford described the Westdale as a bit of a "wallflower" and not getting its chance to shine for several years.

"It's really Fred's idea," Crockford said. "We gathered together a bunch of people we know around the city to give us ideas. We formed the nonprofit. The group of us are working to raise awareness and raise money."

Fuchs comes by his interest in the 81-year-old-theatre honestly. He's made a career in film, serving as president of Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studio in San Francisco for more than a decade. He has executive producer credits for such films as Tucker: A Man and His Dream, The Godfather Part III, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Rainmaker between 1987 and 1999. He produced Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides in Toronto.

In 1981, Fuchs married a woman from Hamilton — the ceremony was held at McMaster University's chapel. So when his time at Zoetrope ended, the couple moved back to Canada, settling in Toronto, where Fuchs worked for CBC as the head of entertainment.

Two years ago, Fuchs and his wife bought a house in Dundas, where he continues working as an independent film producer. He filmed Milton's Secret, featuring Donald Sutherland, in Hamilton last year.

He has other films he'd like to produce in Hamilton, and with the planned rejuvenation of the Westdale cinema, he would have a place to hold his premières.

Fuchs' experience and connections in the film world should be indispensable to his fellow Westdale cinema board members. He noted this week the theatre was screening Moonlight, The Salesman (from Iran) and 20th Century Women.

"These are all art house films, all distributed by Elevation Pictures. I met with Elevation," Fuchs said. "Distributors see this (restoration) as an opportunity to be a first-run theatre. They're excited about this opportunity."

In addition to screening first-run films that might not be shown in larger local multiplexes — or only last for a week — Fuchs said small music performances and lectures, perhaps standup comedy and spoken word performances, could also be held at the new Westdale Theatre.

That's all in addition to providing a site for various local film festivals.

"That's the kind of space it should be," Fuchs said.

He said the theatre has 475 seats, and when work is completed, it will have about 400, with a bit more leg room.

"It's a very unique size for Hamilton," Fuchs said.

He envisions morning matinees for kids, afternoon screenings of classic films for retirees — even busloads of movie fans heading to the Westdale from Amica retirement residences in Dundas. As a nonprofit, Fuchs noted, the corporation won't have to focus on revenue generation.

Fuchs plans to meet with the McMaster Students Union to talk about ways they can work together.

"Few students come here; it's not on their radar," he said.

He said Ward 1 Coun. Aidan Johnson is promoting the future heritage designation of the theatre's facade, and that's just fine for Fuchs.

"Heritage designation is consistent with our mandate as well," Fuchs said.

But the project goes well beyond creating a modernized cinema to see rare first-run films and classic movies while preserving heritage.

"We believe rejuvenation of the theatre will help rejuvenate this Westdale Village," Fuchs said. "It was a planned community, designed with the theatre at the hub. The impact of this will be more than just a theatre."

And when the deal closes, Fuchs and the rest of the group's board will be looking for help — from fundraising and painting to plumbing and other improvements.

"It will have to be shut down when we're doing restoration. But it's very important for us to turn it around and get it open as soon as possible. It will be around for another 50 years."

 

Dundasians driving effort to restore, protect Westdale Theatre

Fuchs and Crockford formed nonprofit corporation to make purchase offer

News Feb 24, 2017 by Craig Campbell Dundas Star News

One day after Fred Fuchs and Bob Crockford, both of Dundas, formed the nonprofit Westdale Cinema Group with a plan to acquire and restore the historic theatre, they heard an offer had just been made.

The pressure was on, and the group's board — which also includes Jeremy Freiburger of Cobalt Connects and Graham Crawford — had to act fast and make its offer.

Outside the theatre this week, Fuchs said the first offer did not appear to be from someone interested in protecting the structure and using it as a theatre.

"This is a project that has to happen," Fuchs said, adding the owners have a deal with the current owner and will complete their due diligence on Feb. 28 and aim to close the sale at the end of April.

​"Too many of these theatres have been chopped up."

"Too many of these theatres have been chopped up," he said.

The theatre was suddenly put up for sale in late December at an asking price of $1,799,000,  surprising both Fuchs and Crockford, who had already been dreaming about making an offer. Fuchs didn't say what the purchase offer was, but estimated restoration and improvements alone will cost the group $1 million.

"But it will be around for the next 50 years. That's why we're doing it," he said.

Fuchs and Crockford have gotten to know each other over the past year and a half. Chatting over coffee, Fuchs shared his vision of the Westdale Theatre being rejuvenated and providing a home for several Hamilton film festivals.

Crockford described the Westdale as a bit of a "wallflower" and not getting its chance to shine for several years.

"It's really Fred's idea," Crockford said. "We gathered together a bunch of people we know around the city to give us ideas. We formed the nonprofit. The group of us are working to raise awareness and raise money."

Fuchs comes by his interest in the 81-year-old-theatre honestly. He's made a career in film, serving as president of Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studio in San Francisco for more than a decade. He has executive producer credits for such films as Tucker: A Man and His Dream, The Godfather Part III, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Rainmaker between 1987 and 1999. He produced Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides in Toronto.

In 1981, Fuchs married a woman from Hamilton — the ceremony was held at McMaster University's chapel. So when his time at Zoetrope ended, the couple moved back to Canada, settling in Toronto, where Fuchs worked for CBC as the head of entertainment.

Two years ago, Fuchs and his wife bought a house in Dundas, where he continues working as an independent film producer. He filmed Milton's Secret, featuring Donald Sutherland, in Hamilton last year.

He has other films he'd like to produce in Hamilton, and with the planned rejuvenation of the Westdale cinema, he would have a place to hold his premières.

Fuchs' experience and connections in the film world should be indispensable to his fellow Westdale cinema board members. He noted this week the theatre was screening Moonlight, The Salesman (from Iran) and 20th Century Women.

"These are all art house films, all distributed by Elevation Pictures. I met with Elevation," Fuchs said. "Distributors see this (restoration) as an opportunity to be a first-run theatre. They're excited about this opportunity."

In addition to screening first-run films that might not be shown in larger local multiplexes — or only last for a week — Fuchs said small music performances and lectures, perhaps standup comedy and spoken word performances, could also be held at the new Westdale Theatre.

That's all in addition to providing a site for various local film festivals.

"That's the kind of space it should be," Fuchs said.

He said the theatre has 475 seats, and when work is completed, it will have about 400, with a bit more leg room.

"It's a very unique size for Hamilton," Fuchs said.

He envisions morning matinees for kids, afternoon screenings of classic films for retirees — even busloads of movie fans heading to the Westdale from Amica retirement residences in Dundas. As a nonprofit, Fuchs noted, the corporation won't have to focus on revenue generation.

Fuchs plans to meet with the McMaster Students Union to talk about ways they can work together.

"Few students come here; it's not on their radar," he said.

He said Ward 1 Coun. Aidan Johnson is promoting the future heritage designation of the theatre's facade, and that's just fine for Fuchs.

"Heritage designation is consistent with our mandate as well," Fuchs said.

But the project goes well beyond creating a modernized cinema to see rare first-run films and classic movies while preserving heritage.

"We believe rejuvenation of the theatre will help rejuvenate this Westdale Village," Fuchs said. "It was a planned community, designed with the theatre at the hub. The impact of this will be more than just a theatre."

And when the deal closes, Fuchs and the rest of the group's board will be looking for help — from fundraising and painting to plumbing and other improvements.

"It will have to be shut down when we're doing restoration. But it's very important for us to turn it around and get it open as soon as possible. It will be around for another 50 years."

 

Dundasians driving effort to restore, protect Westdale Theatre

Fuchs and Crockford formed nonprofit corporation to make purchase offer

News Feb 24, 2017 by Craig Campbell Dundas Star News

One day after Fred Fuchs and Bob Crockford, both of Dundas, formed the nonprofit Westdale Cinema Group with a plan to acquire and restore the historic theatre, they heard an offer had just been made.

The pressure was on, and the group's board — which also includes Jeremy Freiburger of Cobalt Connects and Graham Crawford — had to act fast and make its offer.

Outside the theatre this week, Fuchs said the first offer did not appear to be from someone interested in protecting the structure and using it as a theatre.

"This is a project that has to happen," Fuchs said, adding the owners have a deal with the current owner and will complete their due diligence on Feb. 28 and aim to close the sale at the end of April.

​"Too many of these theatres have been chopped up."

"Too many of these theatres have been chopped up," he said.

The theatre was suddenly put up for sale in late December at an asking price of $1,799,000,  surprising both Fuchs and Crockford, who had already been dreaming about making an offer. Fuchs didn't say what the purchase offer was, but estimated restoration and improvements alone will cost the group $1 million.

"But it will be around for the next 50 years. That's why we're doing it," he said.

Fuchs and Crockford have gotten to know each other over the past year and a half. Chatting over coffee, Fuchs shared his vision of the Westdale Theatre being rejuvenated and providing a home for several Hamilton film festivals.

Crockford described the Westdale as a bit of a "wallflower" and not getting its chance to shine for several years.

"It's really Fred's idea," Crockford said. "We gathered together a bunch of people we know around the city to give us ideas. We formed the nonprofit. The group of us are working to raise awareness and raise money."

Fuchs comes by his interest in the 81-year-old-theatre honestly. He's made a career in film, serving as president of Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studio in San Francisco for more than a decade. He has executive producer credits for such films as Tucker: A Man and His Dream, The Godfather Part III, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Rainmaker between 1987 and 1999. He produced Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides in Toronto.

In 1981, Fuchs married a woman from Hamilton — the ceremony was held at McMaster University's chapel. So when his time at Zoetrope ended, the couple moved back to Canada, settling in Toronto, where Fuchs worked for CBC as the head of entertainment.

Two years ago, Fuchs and his wife bought a house in Dundas, where he continues working as an independent film producer. He filmed Milton's Secret, featuring Donald Sutherland, in Hamilton last year.

He has other films he'd like to produce in Hamilton, and with the planned rejuvenation of the Westdale cinema, he would have a place to hold his premières.

Fuchs' experience and connections in the film world should be indispensable to his fellow Westdale cinema board members. He noted this week the theatre was screening Moonlight, The Salesman (from Iran) and 20th Century Women.

"These are all art house films, all distributed by Elevation Pictures. I met with Elevation," Fuchs said. "Distributors see this (restoration) as an opportunity to be a first-run theatre. They're excited about this opportunity."

In addition to screening first-run films that might not be shown in larger local multiplexes — or only last for a week — Fuchs said small music performances and lectures, perhaps standup comedy and spoken word performances, could also be held at the new Westdale Theatre.

That's all in addition to providing a site for various local film festivals.

"That's the kind of space it should be," Fuchs said.

He said the theatre has 475 seats, and when work is completed, it will have about 400, with a bit more leg room.

"It's a very unique size for Hamilton," Fuchs said.

He envisions morning matinees for kids, afternoon screenings of classic films for retirees — even busloads of movie fans heading to the Westdale from Amica retirement residences in Dundas. As a nonprofit, Fuchs noted, the corporation won't have to focus on revenue generation.

Fuchs plans to meet with the McMaster Students Union to talk about ways they can work together.

"Few students come here; it's not on their radar," he said.

He said Ward 1 Coun. Aidan Johnson is promoting the future heritage designation of the theatre's facade, and that's just fine for Fuchs.

"Heritage designation is consistent with our mandate as well," Fuchs said.

But the project goes well beyond creating a modernized cinema to see rare first-run films and classic movies while preserving heritage.

"We believe rejuvenation of the theatre will help rejuvenate this Westdale Village," Fuchs said. "It was a planned community, designed with the theatre at the hub. The impact of this will be more than just a theatre."

And when the deal closes, Fuchs and the rest of the group's board will be looking for help — from fundraising and painting to plumbing and other improvements.

"It will have to be shut down when we're doing restoration. But it's very important for us to turn it around and get it open as soon as possible. It will be around for another 50 years."