Orpheum meeting deemed ‘good first step’

A gathering of 39 community members and staff at Iowa Valley Community College discussed possible changes at the Orpheum Theater for more than four hours Monday night.

Iowa Valley Chancellor Chris Duree said the passion the community has for the theater is evident and the Orpheum plays a vital role in the community.

“I think it was a good first step,” Duree said. “I was pleased with the commitment of community members in order to move the Orpheum forward and be sustainable in the future. The community members were very engaged and gave us a lot of input.”

The renovated Orpheum is losing more than $200,000 a year and it is estimated to have a total loss of $1 million over the course of four fiscal years. These are costs which take a hit on the overall budget of Iowa Valley, which operates the theater.

Among the two salient options for the college as a result of brainstorming at the meeting are the formation of an Orpheum partnership board made up of community members and the possible establishment of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation to drum up more grants and donations.

Duree said these two options are in the consideration phase.

Duree said another accomplishment of the meeting was the sharing of the facts, both in how the programming has benefited the community and how the budget deficit affects the college.

“We had lengthy discussions with community members about the pros and cons of making a wide variety of changes as well as the pros and cons on maintaining what we have at the Orpheum,” Duree said.

Duree said it was evident to many that the coffee shop needs to be outsourced as it is not viable for the college to run. The future of weekly movies as they exist today is also uncertain. No concrete decisions regarding future operations of the theater were made at the meeting, which was meant to gather ideas from community members.

Duree said they will continue to seek ideas from those community members for the Orpheum until Aug. 1, but have no plans for another meeting with them or the public. The college leaders have a tentative date to enact a strategic plan for the sustainability of the theater by Jan. 1.

Orpheum Director Pip Gordon did not return a call Tuesday to the Times-Republican.