VACANT - The membership of CAT has given the go ahead for their board to acquire the old Uptown Cinema Centre in Red Deer.

CAT acquiring Uptown Theatre

Central Alberta Theatre is in negotiations to purchase the old Uptown Theatre downtown.

According to a release, the membership of CAT has given the go ahead for their board to acquire the old Uptown Cinema Centre which has been vacant for several years.

William Trefry, executive director, said the theatre company’s membership is thrilled with the concept of expanding into the City’s downtown core.

“The membership is really excited – there’s a lot of buzz going on right now,” he said.

He also said the 12,500 sq. ft. facility “fits in nicely with our long term vision and goals for Central Alberta Theatre.”

He first presented the idea of acquiring the privately-owned facility to the board about one month ago.

Trefry said the plan is to eventually have two stages within the facility for theatrical productions and live entertainment. There will also be one large room which will be available for a number of functions or receptions.

The largest theatre, after renovations, should seat about 360 people.

He said the purchase would also be a good compliment to CAT’s current venue and home at CAT Studios attached to the Red Deer Memorial Centre. That’s where CAT has been housed since 1994 after wrapping up a major addition to the building in 2001.

Meanwhile, negotiations are moving forward with an official announcement and more details about the project to be announced at CATena, a preview of CAT’s upcoming season slated for tonight (Sept. 8) at the Memorial Centre.

There will be readings from all this season’s productions, entertainment and some other announcements for start-up of CAT’s 41st season. Things get underway at 7 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.

Trefry, who took over as CAT’s executive director this past May, said the board hopes to have negotiations completed later this month and renovations starting this fall as well.

If all goes according to plan, the new multi-use venue would be available for booking in the first half of 2011.

Central Alberta Theatre was founded in 1970 from an amalgamation of Parkland Players and Red Deer Musical Theatre. With only a few members and rehearsing out of basements and school gymnasiums the group initially focused its talents on presenting main stage productions at the Red Deer Memorial Centre.

Properties, costumes and sets were stored in and around Red Deer, namely the basements and garages of various members.

Members of Central Alberta Theatre eventually voted to approach the City of Red Deer to take over the operation of the Memorial Centre. In 1994 an agreement was made between the two parties.

Expansions were later made to the Memorial Centre for storage, offices and rehearsal space. That part of the facility opened in the fall of 2002.

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