Hippodrome ownership swaps hands
The cast of owners at the Hippodrome wide-screen theater in downtown Charleston is set to change today.
A local film producer and an attorney are buying the Concord Street venue from two local businessmen who made a run at trying to make the 426-seat former IMAX theater successful over the past 18 months.
Film production company owner Lonnie Knight, owner of Knight Vision Productions, and local attorney Akim Anastopoulo are set to close on the 18,000-square-foot building today. They hope to transform the struggling waterfront business into a multipurpose venue.
They are even changing the name from the Terrace Hippodrome to Hippodrome Widescreen Cinema and Performing Arts Center.
Cinema patrons still will be able to take in a movie on the 75-foot-wide screen, but they also will be treated to special events, such as live performers and bands.
For instance, comedian Jimmie Walker, who played the wise-cracking J.J. Evans on the 1970s hit TV comedy "Good Times," is set to perform a stand-up routine Jan. 13 at the theater.
Knight is trying to line up other acts, as well, and will offer the facility for parties and wedding receptions.
A stage platform will be added in front of the screen to allow live performances, he said.
"We love that spot," Knight said Wednesday. "We know it has so much more potential than what it's used for now. We plan to leave it as a cinema, but market it a lot better so people will know it's actually there."
First-run, blockbuster-type movies will be offered, and movie prices will not change, he said. Concession prices will be comparable to other cinemas in metro Charleston.
"We want to keep people going to that area," Knight said.
Knight and Anastopoulo bought the facility from Michael Furlinger and John Brieger, who sold the Terrace Theater on James Island early last year.
Furlinger and Brieger opened Charleston Sweet Gourmet in South Windermere Shopping Center in the fall, venturing back to their roots when they operated similar shops in New York and Texas for 20 years before coming to Charleston in 2007. They are exploring options for other shops in the Charleston area, Furlinger said.
Furlinger said Knight and Anastopoulo first approached him in June about selling the theater after hearing that Furlinger and his business partner might close it because of a decline in moviegoers.
Talks picked back up before Christmas.
"We wanted somebody local who was going to live here instead of being an absentee landlord," Furlinger said Wednesday. "The venue is amazing. There are a lot of possibilities for that location."