On Tuesday, June 29th at 1pm, the Bethesda Theatre will be go up for auction, and, unless a bidder is found willing to maintain the facility as a 700 seat theatre, the valuable downtown Bethesda space will likely be converted to retail shops.
Paul Cooper, vice president of Alex Cooper Auctioneers reports that the owners, Bethesda Cultural Alliance, defaulted on their mortgage, forcing the auction. As of this time, no potential buyers have come forward.
The landmark art deco theatre – originally a 1938 movie house – was given a $12 million renovation in 2007, and re-opened as a touring house for New York off-Broadway Nederlander productions. The Washington Post quotes Tom Baum, president of the Bethesda Cultural Alliance: “It’s a crippling blow to having a theater basically starting up amidst an economy taking a turn for the worst.” The theatre was unable to build up a substantial enough local support or subscription base to weather the economic downturn.
Hopeful that new owners will be found, he continued: “You go there today and there’s a beautiful theater there and it wasn’t there six years ago. I think that it’ll continue to be an asset for the community for years.”