Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Potential Thawing in the Grandin Situation

It appears some progress is being made in the Grandin Theatre disagreement that has resulted in some harsh feelings, threats of a boycott, at least one demonstration (with pickets) and a lot of ill will.

Today, Tony Stavola, who had been on the Grandin Theatre Foundation board for years, left and has returned, sent this note to me (Tony's a physician and not a writer, so I've cleaned it up a bit):

"The executive committee [of the Grandin Theatre], at the suggestion of some of us, is going to discuss having a forum of some type with some of those who have been supporters but also expressed concern--such as yourself. More on that to come soon, I hope. The idea would be to have the chance to have a discussion focusing on what the future should be for us. This community only loses if we do not strive to make sure the Grandin continues to be sucessful now and in the future."

It was the second positive step of the day: the first being that fired former General Manager Jason Garrett went to the theater and picked up his belongings. There had been some question about whether he would be allowed to do that.

There has been considerable intensive discussion going on--apparently on both sides of the issue, and I know that some are looking into alternatives to the Grandin and others are strongly supporting some kind of boycott. Among the sticking points for those with a bone to pick with the Grandin has been a lack of dialogue with the board as a whole and the failure to recognize that this group even exists. The perceived withholding of Jason Garnett's personal gear (virtually all of it loaned to the Grandin to help make it better in one way or another) has been a special sore spot for many, as well.


  1. I would like to express the sentiment, for those of us either unfamiliar with the personalities involved or those of us wishing to not take sides, that keeping the theater open is a win-win for everyone. This neighborhood doesn't need businesses moving out - even if the fact that someone could not pick up personal belongings makes me mad as hell.

  2. Jeff:
    What's needed is some cool heads (like Tony Stavola on one side of the table and Simon Nolen and Beth Jones on the other)and a cessation of hostilities. My guess is that if representatives of each would listen to those on the other, we'd move this thing into a positive finish--if you discount the dismissal of Jason Garnett. I don't think the opposition will ever be completely satisfied until Kathy Chittum is gone, but that's not likely to happen in the near future, so living with her is a reality. I think it would behoove her to present less of a threatening presence and open the theater up to some ideas, along with the board.
    The real threat to the Grandin here is not a boycott, so much, as it is the potential presence of another, competing theater--especially one that is really an art theater.

  3. I find the current situation at the Grandin to be heartbreaking. While the firing of Jason Garnett will probably go down as one of the greatest bonehead moves of all time, I can't support any effort that will lead to the demise of the theater. It is simply too important to the neighborhood and to the city as a whole. On the other hand, I am deeply disappointed in the direction the theater has taken in recent years which seems to be away from independent films. If I wanted to see Hollywood blockbusters, I would go to a modern megaplex. The Grandin is supposed to be the place for movies you can't see anywhere else.

  4. Cool heads are great when determining what to have for lunch. Passion is what is necessary when determining how to save a dying landmark.

  5. Of course, we must support the Grandin. I've been in love with the place since I was twelve years old and saw Howard's End there on a rainy August Day. I don't know why CPAs and non-film lovers are running the place, but wasn't it started by the Junior League? Seems to me they're still running things :-)
    But the Grandin IS a lovely lady.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Quick point: The Junior League had nothing to do with the re-emergence of the Grandin. In 2002, Ed Walker put together a bunch of people (me included) to raise money and bring it back from closing. Roanoke chipped in $500,000, one of its best economic development investments in recent years judging from all the businesses that have opened around the Grandin. A knowledgeable, committed board of directors was in control for the first couple of years, but has become more of a figurehead in recent times, very ineffectual. That has led to the current difficulties.

  8. es, but I guess I just meant, didn't the JL start it or something? I just thought that was ironic given its deservedly counter-culture attraction for people like me. Seems like the people who are running it are not very sophisticated, at least as far as film goes, which would be understandable for CPAs, Junior Leaguers, and the people they feel comfortable around (like Chittum?)