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Franklin Building independent film theater coming to fruition

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Organizers for the planned independent art and film theater should finally know by the end of January whether enough funding has been secured to proceed with the $120,000 project in the Franklin Building.

Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, was told by a North Country Arts Council official that the organization continues to seek funding, but should know within four to six weeks whether the project is a go.

“They’re more then three-fourths of the way there and they are pretty optimistic,” Mr. Rutherford said.

He said he recently talked to Arts Council President Michael C. Miller, who could not be reached for comment Friday night, about the status of the project. They are making progress, Mr. Miller told him.

Mr. Rutherford, however, could not provide information about when construction would start or how long it would take if the final funding can be obtained.

It was good news for the Watertown Trust, since the board has been concerned in recent months about the rent arrangement with the Arts Council.

Two months ago, the Watertown Trust board agreed the space should be marketed because it’s costing the WLDC money to have it sit idle. If a tenant were found, the Arts Council would be given “a first right of refusal” for that space before another party could claim it, board members said.

For the past two years, the WLDC has given the Arts Council a discounted rate on its lease, charging just $1.95 a square foot.

As of Feb. 1, the Watertown Trust would receive the full rent amount.

Without the discounted rate, the Franklin Building would not be losing money for the Trust, board members said.

The theater project was first announced in 2011, but funding and various other obstacles have caused delays.

Plans for the Screen on the Square project have called for the 2,000 square feet of space once occupied by the old YWCA pool to be the venue for showing small, independent art and foreign language films.

The Arts Council, which will run the theater with flexible seating for 60 to 100 people, leases a storefront in the Franklin Building, 50 Public Square, for its headquarters.

The theater would bring to Watertown the same art films, documentaries and animated films that are shown at the Cannes, Toronto and Sundance film festivals.

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