Downtown Mobile’s Crescent Theater could get a new lease on life, thanks to a group of backers working to buy the portion of the building it occupies, supporters said Thursday.
The independent single-screen theater has been a distinctive feature of downtown for more than a decade. Thanks in large part to a nonprofit support group, the Crescent Theater Film Society, it has been able to overcome some lean times – but in early September that organization announced that a looming rent increase meant the theater would have to shut down at the end of the month.
Max Morey, who founded the modern version of the Crescent, said the effort is not a done deal. It’s being spearheaded by attorney Buzz Jordan. Jordan has some experience in keeping downtown landmarks open for business: In 2018 he took over the A&M Peanut Shop, across the street from the Saenger.
In this case, Jordan said, he’s working with a consortium of investors who do business downtown or own downtown businesses. They want to keep the theater going because of its benefits as a downtown asset.
“We’re going in that direction,” Jordan said. “The owner’s been very receptive because he wants to save it too.”
Morey said that while the details are still being worked out, the likely parameters are that the new investors would purchase the ground floor of the building, which houses the Crescent. They’d also take over ownership of the theater business, with Morey on contract to continue operating and programming it.
Jordan said that all the parties were working towards an agreement, but it could take a month or more to work out the details. “We’re all trying to go in the right direction,” he said.
“The peanut shop, we didn’t have to change anything,” said Jordan. “We shouldn’t have to change anything at the Crescent either, except maybe add more programming.”
Morey said that as word of the effort had gotten out, his phone had blown up with congratulations. That was a little premature, he said, but “I’ve got my fingers crossed.”
For now, the latest twist in the life of the Crescent seems to have opened the way for it to continue operating in October. If the programming information on its website holds true, that means patrons are in store for two particularly exciting offerings: The first comes on Oct. 6, when Texas ensemble The Invincible Czars will provide live musical accompaniment to the 100-year-old horror classic “Nosferatu.” The second is that the Crescent is to begin showing the prizewinning documentary “Descendant” on Oct. 23
For “Descendant” to show on Dauphin Street is a big deal. The film from director Margaret Brown, a Mobile native, focuses on the Africatown community founded by survivors of the slave ship Clotilda’s final voyage. It won a special jury award after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, then quickly was snapped up for distribution by Netflix and Higher Ground, a company founded by Michelle and Barack Obama. Appearing at an August film festival, the former first lady said she didn’t just see it as an appealing film to be involved with, but as exactly the kind of film they got into the business to promote.
Other titles listed at http://www.crescenttheater.com/ are the George Clooney-Julia Roberts romantic comedy “Ticket to Paradise,” with an unspecified October start date, and period crime caper “Amsterdam,” listed as “coming soon. “