Plans are in the works to convert a beautiful, open room on the top floor of the historic theatre to a multi-purpose room which will be available for rent to the public. The room, which will have an adjacent catering kitchen, will also be used as a documentary screening area, and will be accessible by elevator.
The room, which doesn't yet have a name, will also be used to host parties and additional programming.
Mary Foote, Executive Director of the Association for the Colonial Theatre (ACT), said documentaries are now being recorded on DVDs, which will allow them to be shown in the room while movies are playing in the theatre.
"DVD documentaries will be a really nice addition to our programming," said Foote, who banded together with six others to purchase the Colonial Theatre.
Foote said she became involved with the theatre about 10 years ago when she saw the "For Sale" sign on the building.
"When I saw the sign I thought, 'Oh my God, this ain't happening,'" she said.
Foote's seven-person committee worked together to purchase the theatre, and have been working on it ever since.
ACT intends for the theatre to become more cultural, and hopes to offer a broad range of arts-focused entertainment, and from the beginning the vision has been promoting the theatre as a cultural arts center.
At present, the theatre is able to accommodate movies, as well as small productions like its yearly Rocky Horror Picture Show and live music, but at this point, Foote said, the stage is unable to handle more works.
"We want to do more live programming like dance and small theatre, but the productions are limited at this point, because the stage is not yet renovated," she said.
The goal of the theatre, which opened in 1903 as a Vaudeville House, is not to become a producing venue, but a presentation place; and without the stage, the current number, and type, of productions is restricted.
Phase Five will encompass the rehabilitation of the stage, as well as the reconstruction of backstage and an all-wood fly system used to raise and lower the movie screen to allow on-stage events. The wooden fly system will be replaced with steel.
The outdoor Box Office will also be completed.
The stage renovation will include a hydraulic system below to lift a 14-rank Wurlitzer organ, which will arrive in April, onto the stage through trap doors.
The members of ACT set out a five-year strategic plan which encompassed the refurbishment of the theatre. Now in its fourth of five phases, they hope the project will be finished in the next two years.
Alongside the planned third-floor renovation is the installation of an elevator, which will provide access to the third floor, and will allow handicapped persons to be able to sit in the theatre's balcony for the first time.
The plan is to accommodate handicapped theatre-goers with an additional four rows of seating in the balcony, which will include wheelchair-accessible spaces. Elevator access to the party room and screening area on the third floor will also be available.
The elevator installation, which is separate from the renovation and expansion project, was funded with a $132,000 grant given to the theatre by the Chester County Department of Community Development.
To date the theatre has received nearly $550,000 in grants from both local and private entities, including $20,000 from the Claneil Foundation, which has been a long-time supporter of the Colonial Theatre, and $150,000 from the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation.
Fundraising for the remainder of the expansion-renovation project is ongoing, with sales of seats in the main theatre providing a cash-flow boost. For $250, a patron can purchase a seat, which will have his or her name inscribed on an attached brass plaque. Aisle seats are $500. All proceeds from the seats, which are about two-thirds sold out, will go toward further renovation of the historic building.
ACT still needs $100,000 to reach its fundraising goal and finish the restoration of the community landmark which gave Phoenixville its claim to fame in the 1958 film "The Blob."
The Colonial Theatre is the focus of the downtown, said Foote, bringing 35,000 people a year into the borough to eat and shop, aside from seeing films.
"If this isn't moving, nothing will," she said.
Upcoming movies and productions at the Colonial Theatre include Get the Led Out: The Led Zeppelin Concert Experience on Oct. 28 at 8:00 p.m., and the 1922 symphony of horror, Nosferatu, which is the earliest surviving screen-adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. The silent film will be accompanied by the Devil Music Ensemble, and will show on Nov. 4 at 8:00 p.m.
For more information on upcoming shows, visit the theatre's Website at www.thecolonialtheatre.com.