With a successful 2007 True/False Film Festival under their belt, festival organizers David Wilson and Paul Sturtz now have time for their other baby: a move for the Ragtag Cinemacafe.
The first noises of a move for the small, nonprofit theater began to surface in fall 2005. Initially, the plan was for Ragtag and Uprise Bakery to cohabit the vacant Kelly Press building, 10 Hitt St. Then in summer 2006, there was word that 9th St. Video would be included in the equation.
Now nearly a year and a half later, the time has come.
“We’re gearing up to break ground on it and the renovations should begin this summer,” said Wilson, who opened Ragtag with Sturtz in 2000. “With any luck, we’ll be in there by the next True/False.”
So what does this mean for the 7-year-old business? With a new location comes new possibilities.
The new location, which was formerly a Coca-Cola bottling plant, will provide twice as much space and the opportunity for a new setup. Currently, Ragtag, located at 23 N. Tenth St., is confined to 750 square feet, 75 seats and one screen for showing independent and alternative films. The new location will boast two theaters: one with 1,650 square feet, housing roughly 130 seats, and another with 800 square feet and space for 65 people. The new building will also have a bakery, a lounge and a video store.
With the new additions, Ragtag will be able to have more showings, keep the more popular films running longer while showing smaller and more obscure films and serve an ever-growing number of patrons.
Considering that the owners of Uprise Bakery, Holly Roberson and Ron Rottinghaus, also helped to open Ragtag with Wilson and Sturtz, it isn’t a large leap for the businesses to move in together.
“From day one, when we first started looking for spaces, we were looking for a building that could hold a theater and a bakery,” Wilson said. “When we couldn’t find one, we had to go with two buildings.” Currently,
Ragtag’s concessions consist of a few menu items provided by Uprise, such as hummus, a small assortment of breads and homemade soup. But with the merger, Uprise’s full menu will be available to movie-goers and lunchers alike.
“We’ll be bringing it back together the way we intended it to be,” Wilson said.
According to its Web site, Ragtag strives to “find films that fly beneath the radar of consumer culture.” The theater also offers nontraditional refreshments, including a selection of wines and beer in bottles and on tap. For many regulars, it’s the combination of the two that provides for a comfortable atmosphere.
Perhaps the largest concern for Ragtag regulars is the fear that the larger space will mean a loss of intimacy. But those who are afraid of change can rest easy. The theater plans on keeping the cozy, worn-in feel that is currently part of the Ragtag experience.
“One theater will maintain our current style, and the other will be a mix of fixed seating and the couches,” Wilson said. “We, as much as anyone, appreciate the intimacy of what the Ragtag is and have no intentions of screwing it up.”
The approximated cost of the move and renovations is just under $1 million. Ragtag will be launching a capital campaign to raise theater-specific money to help with the technological side of the theater and the cost of the move.
In an effort to maintain support of individual expression and local artists, Wilson said he is enthusiastic about the possibilities for housing art exhibits at the new location.
“We’ve got more wall space and a lot of freedom,” he said.
Ragtag board members are also working with Lee Expressive Arts School to build an art installation outside in a courtyard on the south side of the building.
The new location will also offer a solution for parking. Currently, parking possibilities for the three individual downtown businesses is hit-or-miss, often resulting in patrons having to walk several blocks from their car to their destination. “There will be parking along the north side of the building for the bakery and video store,” Wilson said. “There’s also a parking garage adjacent to the building.”
The new space will also benefit Uprise Bakery, currently at 816 E. Broadway, by providing a larger kitchen area and a shared lounge. The new building will also allow for upgrades.
The inclusion of 9th St. Video, 25 S. Ninth St., into the family is also fitting, Wilson said, because the store prides itself on its diverse movie selection and championing the smaller films.
“Ninth Street Video has been close friends of Ragtag since we started, and we’ve been supporters of each other instead of competitors,” Wilson said. “They were one of the first people we talked to about moving, and they were really excited and we knew it would be a great fit.”
Though many changes are in store for the three businesses, Wilson is confident each business will hold on to its identity.
“We’ll just be under one roof,” he said.