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Peekskill picks Red House to run Paramount Center for the Arts

The venerable Peekskill theater the Paramount Center for

The venerable Peekskill theater the Paramount Center for the Arts suspended operations in October 2012. Photo Credit: Xavier Mascareñas

Peekskill officials plan to enter a lease with Red House Entertainment to take over operations at the Paramount Center for the Arts, with a vote to make the matter official expected at Monday night's Common Council meeting at City Hall.

Melanie Rener, a Peekskill spokeswoman, confirmed to Newsday Westchester on Thursday afternoon that lease negotiations for the 960-seat theater, which is owned by the city, were likely to be authorized Monday.

"On March 11, the Peekskill Common Council will vote to authorize management to negotiate a lease with Red House Entertainment," she wrote.

Rener said that information also would be posted on the city's website Thursday.

Peekskill officials are scheduled to meet in executive session at 6:30 p.m. Monday for a Committee of the Whole meeting in the Paul Schwerman Conference Room of City Hall (840 Main St., Peekskill, 914-737-3400, They then will head upstairs to the council chambers for a 7:30 p.m. Common Council meeting that's open to the public.

On Feb. 19, a six-member committee of Peekskill business owners, community members and city officials recommended to the Common Council that Red House Entertainment take over operations at the Paramount Center for the Arts, which suspended operations Oct. 4. The Paramount Phoenix Group and Tarrytown Music Hall also had made bids to operate the downtown theater on Brown Street, but the committee unanimously sided with Red House.

Committee member Jason Angell, the president of the Peekskill Business Improvement District, told city officials last month that, among the three Paramount proposal finalists, Red House offered the best combination of vision, operating structure, and financial planning and management experience.

"We thought that their vision really tied in local businesses and community partners and would be a boon to local economic growth," he said at the time.

Mayor Mary F. Foster, one of two City Council members to serve on the committee, agreed last month, saying, "Red House was the only one that really got it, in terms of how to integrate it with the business community."

Also serving on the screening committee are City Councilwoman Kathie Talbot, acting City Manager Brian O. Havranek, Peekskill resident Mike Morey and Cortlandt Town Board member Rich Becker.

With a plan to reopen the Paramount with family programming as early as May, Red House aims to program 80 events this year and 200 next year -- more than what Tarrytown and Phoenix proposed.

Opening in 1930 as a movie complex, the Paramount suspended operations less than three weeks after it hosted a Sept. 15 red-carpet gala to try to raise $300,000 for programming. The Paramount's board of trustees, which later filed plans to dissolve the nonprofit organization, blamed economic difficulties, a dearth of donations and grants, and increased expenses.

Peekskill native Kurt Heitmann, who heads the Red House group, has said he envisions the new Paramount as a for-profit music and entertainment venue, with a complementary but independent nonprofit arm dedicated to cultural enrichment and education. Red House provided the lone proposal with a profit-nonprofit hybrid approach; Tarrytown and Phoenix offered solely nonprofit models.

The screening committee lauded Red House for its experience and programming vision, one that would promote not only Friday and Saturday night concerts but also ethnic, music and movie festivals, together with themed weeks that would keep the venue busy most days of the week and keep people coming to downtown Peekskill. The committee also praised Red House's plan to generate ancillary revenue through radio broadcasts and live streaming of concerts, as well as syndication, TV, concessions, merchandising and sponsorship.

Assembled specifically with management of the Paramount in mind, Red House's team features Heitmann, a senior vice president for CP Communications; Jonathan Close, who works for the International Management Group; Ray Wilson, who has produced for TV, radio and stage; and Abigail Adams, who serves as managing director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival at Boscobel.

Red House plans to make the Paramount self-sustaining within six months. After that, the group would pay rent and utilities, Heitmann has said.

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