Red House Entertainment L.L.C. is hoping to be the group that takes Peekskill’s Paramount Center for the Arts out of the red.
The company, run by Garrison sound engineer Kurt Heitmann, was the unanimous selection of a six-person committee that reviewed the three groups bidding to take over the shuttered Paramount. The committee included Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster, Peekskill Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Jason Angell and Councilwoman Kathleen Talbot. The city is expected to make its decision at a common council meeting Feb. 25.
“Red House has a dynamic creative vision for the Paramount,” said Angell. “They are looking to hold 200 events a year, with a lot of weekday programming. That’s what we need in downtown Peekskill.”
Heitmann, who runs CP Communications, an Elmsford-based production equipment company, was the only bidder that would run the theater as a for-profit venture, with a nonprofit subsidiary attached to benefit community arts. Red House Entertainment was recently formed for the purpose of running the Paramount.
The 1,024-seat Paramount, owned by the city, closed last October and Paramount Center for the Arts Inc., the nonprofit that ran the theater, dissolved in November facing a $300,000 budget shortfall. This year, Peekskill put out a request for proposal (RFP) for a group to lease the city-owned facility. The other two bidders were Paramount Phoenix Group, led by Peekskill restaurateur Arnold Paglia, and the Tarrytown Music Hall.
Red House estimates that it will produce $1.8 million in revenue its first year, with losses of $370,000.
Angell said they were impressed by Red House’s plans for the Paramount, including broadcasting on radio a series of concerts live from the Paramount.
“This would raise the profile of the city of Peekskill,” Angell said.
Heitmann said he was excited and ready to work out a lease agreement with the city. He thinks his group’s business expertise put Red House at the top.
“The theater needs to be run as a business,” Heitmann said. “We were very in-depth with what artists and events we would have. We put a lot of time into it. We just didn’t give them a hypothetical. We were very detailed.”
Running the theater as a nonprofit has its constraints, which is why Heitmann wanted to run it as a for-profit venue.
“Nonprofits have dried up,” Heitmann said. “The grants and foundations aren’t there. You can’t rely on goodwill. Donors and sponsors have been burned by the Paramount already.”
Heitmann said he would work out a rent agreement with the city, but is hoping to forgo rent for the first six months and said they would share ticket revenues.
“We really feel like it needs to be a partnership,” Heitmann said. “It needs to be busy. What’s the goal here? What can the Paramount be? My goal is to make it an economic engine for downtown Peekskill. I want it to be the crown jewel of Peekskill and the Hudson Valley.”
Foster was among those who praised the Red House bid, saying that its bid provides the city with the greatest economic advantage.
“We feel this will create a dynamic and unique vision for our downtown,” Foster said. “They have a vision for Paramount as not just a music venue but as a real business. It’s not just about shows and performances on Friday and Saturday.”
Foster said it was important that the bid had a solid business plan and was not looking for anything from the city, and said Red House will coordinate its programs with downtown businesses.
“This will become the cultural destination of the Hudson Valley,” Foster said. “This will enhance the reputation of Peekskill as a cultural hub.”
Angell said that while the Tarrytown Music Hall has had success in Tarrytown, he was concerned about the number of programs they would run in Peekskill. The Tarrytown Music Hall projected the Paramount earning $650,000 in revenue by the second year, compared to the $2.7 million generated by the music hall.
Tarrytown Music Hall would absolve the Paramount into its organization, with the Paramount only having one seat on the Tarrytown Music Hall’s board of directors.
“We were really pushing for equal representation,” Angell said. “We want to make sure that we would receive the same priority and programs. Tarrytown was resistant.”
Angell said that Paramount Phoenix Group put together a strong bid, but was concerned that its programming was too niche, focusing on classical music, opera, fine arts, jazz and ballet.
As executive director of the BID, Angell said that he sees the Paramount as the anchor of downtown Peekskill, and that weekday programming will be important for businesses to thrive.
“It is an economic engine,” Angell said. “If you have people in there everyday filling the seats, they will circulate throughout Peekskill whether it be grabbing a cup of coffee or visiting the bookstore. Red House’s vision of the Paramount will be a tipping point for Peekskill.”