It’s time to change the way we think about the Huntridge Theatre

Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

The Huntridge Theatre will be around for a while yet. Last week, the covenants protecting the 72-year-old building as a place of historic significance were extended to December 31, 2028. A state judgment against the current owners of the property, Eli Mizrachi and King George LLC—the repayment of $765,849 in grant monies, which came due when King George ceased to operate the Huntridge as a venue in 2004—has been partially settled; King George must repay $389,925, and it can reduce that payment by $32,494 for every year the Huntridge functions as a “usable public building” between now and 2028.

I live a couple of blocks away from the Huntridge—and have, on and off, since 1995—and while I’m pleased the theater will be with us for a while to come, I’m having a hard time mustering enthusiasm for these next 12 years.

The Huntridge looks awful—the recent paint job has already faded, and the parking lot is occasionally strewn with the trash from homeless encampments. The homeless sleeping in the shade of the theater and in nearby Huntridge Circle Park is another heartbreaking issue entirely, one I won’t tackle here. Nor will I write about the last “Save the Huntridge” Indiegogo campaign, speculate about the motivations of the current owners or try to predict whom the next potential buyer might be.

What I will write about is how I currently feel about the Huntridge Theatre, and it ain’t good. Honestly, I sometimes wish it would burn to the ground, so we wouldn’t be burdened with the idea of what to do with the place. There’s too much desperation and failure attached to the Huntridge, and those emotions have supplanted whatever warm, fuzzy feelings I might have had for the shows I attended there in the early 1990s. I know that the road back to being a “usable public building” is paved with staggering expense, and there are no guarantees our dream uses for the Huntridge—concert venue, movie theater, community playhouse—are viable in the era of Brooklyn Bowl, Eclipse Cinemas and the Smith Center.

So, instead of wishing for that freak lightning strike, I’m setting fire to my ideas about what the Huntridge should be, and trying to think about what the neighborhood needs it to be. It’s a piece in a puzzle that includes Circle Park, the adjacent Huntridge Plaza (currently undergoing renovations by local developer J Dapper, who has also expressed interest in purchasing the theater) and Downtown Vegas at large. What could help the Huntridge neighborhood? What could make the theater a destination? What could get us excited for the Huntridge again?

The answers aren’t forthcoming. Meanwhile, the Huntridge sits there, decaying, diminishing in our hearts. Perhaps I could take this opportunity to clear the slate and let the building tell me what it wants to become, without bearing the weight of what it has been and without all the bad feeling that has been engendered on its behalf. Perhaps we all could.

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