Oxford’s former Princess Theater site will be serving up food, not films, in its future

The Princess Theatre closed in 2014 after a fire. The building was torn down soon after.

Credit: Greg Lynch

Credit: Greg Lynch

Hopes of opening a movie theater at the site of the former Princess Theater were dashed Aug. 23 when property owners signed a lease to locate a restaurant at 10 N. Beech St.

The new lease marked the end of a long road for those trying to bring a theater back to the site after the original Princess Theater was sold and then a fire soon after shut it down. Eventually, the building was torn down and a new building was constructed in its place.

The Princess Theater caught fire on Green Beer Day in March 2014 after an ice machine malfunctioned, with the building suffering significant smoke damage.

Just days before a new lease was signed for the property, Oxford City Council members were asked if the city was interested in contributing funds for a movie theater at the site.

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Council members were generally skeptical of using city money for the project, but it became meaningless two days later when the lease was signed for the space.

“Everyone wanted it,” Oxford Economic Development Director Alan Kyger said of a movie theater in the space. “It was coming up with the funding.”

“I’m disappointed, but I understand it from the property owners’ standpoint,” he said. “They waited, but sooner or later they have to move on. We gave it a shot.”

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Kyger had been working with the group Friends of the Princess Theater, which also had an interest in replacing the theater. The group reached out to Miami University to see if there was interest in helping, but that did not come to pass, he said.

“It’s not our building. We are not theater operators, but we jumped in with no vested interest,” Kyger said. “Our goal was to help facilitate things.”

Demolition crews work at the site where Princess Theatre once stood on North Beech Street.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Community Improvement Corporation considered using as much as $300,000 from the Revolving Loan Fund for the build-out, but before funds could be committed, the design work — estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 — was required.

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In the Council meeting discussion, council member David Prytherch said he has been involved with the effort for several years because a theater would be a “cultural asset in the Uptown.”

“We have a theater space, not set up as a theater space. We have an operator,” Prytherch said. “The passion is there. There is potential capital.”

Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott said he thought it was a good use of Kyger’s time to at least pursue the possibility, and Kyger said he had hoped to find the right mix of people to put it together.

At one point prior to the sale of the Princess Theater, the city was offered the property, but that was withdrawn.

Now, with the opportunity passed, it will be up to others to see if a theater eventually comes to Oxford.

“It’s disappointing,” Elliott said. “It was difficult because there were a lot of players. It’s frustrating for us.”

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