How the Ithaca community rallied to keep the historic State Theatre alive

Local News

ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The historic State Theatre in Ithaca is looking ahead to when it can host in-person events again, thanks to community support.

All of the State Theatre’s 1,600 seats have been “saved,” as part of their “Save Your Seat” campaign.

The public fundraising effort started on Nov. 10 to help close the budget gap caused by the pandemic.

The not-for-profit organization that owns and operates Tompkins County’s last remaining historic performing arts venue has had all of its live performances postponed or canceled since the middle of March.

As a result, the theater has lost 100% of its show-related revenue and put the venue in danger of having to close its doors.

State Theatre Executive Director Doug Levine says, “All of my major shows were wiped off the map and there was no end in sight. But since that time, yes, we’ve seen the community rally around us with a very successful Save Your Seat campaign.”

Originally opened in 1928, the not-for-profit State Theatre of Ithaca depends on community support to host around 100 events a year.

The building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places — one of fewer than 100 theaters of its kind left in the U.S.

“They just don’t build them like this anymore, and when artists step on our stage for the first time, even before the show starts, they look around like wow, we’re in for a special treat,” Levine tells NewsChannel 9.

For $100, donors get a small plaque on their sponsored seat, but Levine says this fundraiser did so much for the venue itself.

“It’s the difference between us closing our doors until we can wait this thing out and keeping my skeleton staff that’s in place here still so we can keep working and putting on some live-streamed shows and staying relevant,” he says.

Besides hundreds of donations from individual donors, dozens of local businesses came forward to support this campaign.

The most encouraging thing, though, is just to see how much this community loves us and how much we love them, but really to see how quickly the community rallied around us and that they do not want to see us go goodbye. They want to see us succeed and they want to see us here when it’s safe to reopen again.

State Theatre Executive Director Doug Levine

Tompkins Trust Company stepped up in a major way, sponsoring the first two rows of the downstairs orchestra section.

In addition to Tompkins Trust Company, other local businesses sponsored entire rows including B&W Supply, Cayuga Radio Group, CFCU Community Credit Union, Greenscene Lawn & Garden, Ithaca Asthma & Allergy Associates, Ithaca Guitar Works, Sciarabba Walker & Company, STREAM Collective, and Travis Hyde Properties.

State Theatre of Ithaca Inc. is the 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that owns and operates Tompkins County’s last remaining historic theatre.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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