A new manager has stepped up to operate the historic Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver, freeing building owner Bill Leigh to pursue his interest in restoring old buildings.
“Running the theater business takes somebody with a passion for film and entertainment,” Leigh said Wednesday. “My passion is buildings.”
The theater’s new operator is Dan Wyatt, owner of downtown soda shop Pop Culture, an Uptown Village venue that also features live music nights and movie nights, and showcases local artwork. Wyatt has become the Kiggins’ new tenant and will pay to lease the landmark theater at 1011 Main St.
“He (Wyatt) knows and understands movies, where I don’t. He will do a better job operating it,” said Leigh, who invested more than $200,000 and countless hours restoring the 1930s-era venue.
State legislators recently tabled a bill inspired by the Kiggins Theatre that would have allowed single-screen theaters to serve alcohol in their auditoriums. The proposal, House Bill 2558, passed the House, but it missed a cutoff date in the Senate and now appears dead.
“I think it was on the road to passing,” Leigh said.
Now, its passage could be another year away.
“The bill was going to help the theater a lot,” Leigh said, adding that according to Oregon theater operators he’s talked to, the Kiggins could have seen a 30 to 40 percent gain in revenue if the bill had passed. “The new operator will need to increase the revenue significantly to make any money. It takes a lot of income to make it break even.”
In the meantime, Leigh expects Wyatt to bring new energy to the theater business, relying heavily on his youthful following of local high school students.
Wyatt could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Leigh expects to continue restoring buildings and is already working on a historic structure in Northeast Portland. He would also like to invest in another building in downtown Vancouver.
“It’s a gamble,” he said. “You have to be able to buy it, get a tenant and restore it, so it’s all very long term.”
Columbian staff writer Stevie Mathieu contributed to the story.