ROCKFORD - The Times Theater was one of a few single-screen movie theaters operating in Rockford in the 1960s and 70s when Tom Giamalva was just a kid.
It had opened at Jefferson and Main streets in 1938 with a showing of "Thoroughbreds Don't Cry," starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Although revived for a short period as a cabaret and then a night club, it has been decades since the theater was used to screen movies and it has been closed for 20 years.
Now Joseph James Partners is pursuing state funding that could help breathe new life into the long-vacant theater. The company is seeking a $3 million state grant to defray the estimated more than $14 million cost of redeveloping the property.
Giamalva - the former owner of Palace Shoe Repair which closed in March after 95 years in business - is hopeful the project is successful and builds on the momentum of a resurgent downtown Rockford.
"The Times was a little more simple compared to a couple of the other theaters, but it was beautiful in there," Giamalva said. "I remember as a kid, eating at the restaurant right here."
Nearly 200 people had signed a change.org petition supporting the grant application as of Monday afternoon.
Joseph James President Peter Provenzano, who is also the CEO of SupplyCore, plans to renovate the theater into a multi-use facility and entertainment venue capable of seating 650 to 900 people for concerts, plays, comedy shows and occasional films.
Plans are to restore the Art Moderne architecture of the autitorium and lobby while adding a new balcony that could seat 150. There would be space for a restaurant with take-out food and a lounge with an auxiliary stage.
Provenzano said public investment is needed to complete the kind of historic renovation he envisions, gathering local and state elected officials for a news conference announcing his pursuit of an Illinois Rebuild Downtowns & Main Streets grant.
Provenzano said the theater could fill a need for a niche sized theater in the downtown entertainment market, while drawing more visitors and activity.
State Rep. Maurice West, state Sen. Steve Stadelman and Winnebago County Board Chairman Joseph Chiarelli were on hand to support the grant application along with Rockford Aldermen Tim Durkee, R-1, Chad Tuneberg, R-3, and Mark Bonne, D-14.
"Bringing the Times Theater back to life will not only revitalize the downtown area, but improve our theater district," West said.
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Developer seek revive Times Theater, restore Art Moderne architecture