Efforts to purchase El Rey Theater have failed


An inside look of the historical El Rey Photo credit: Ken Naas

Chico’s historic El Rey Theater faces an uncertain future after a local organization, the El Rey Alliance, failed to raise enough funds to buy it.

The El Rey Alliance, formed 10 years ago, is a group working to keep the magic and historical value of the El Rey Theater. The current venue owners gave the alliance until Sept. 9 to raise $1.5 million, the estimated value of the venue, but attempts to raise the money were unsuccessful.

El Rey Alliance gathered a total of $4,955 on Generosity.com.

“It would take a miracle except the deadline has been reached,” said the El Rey Alliance’s Organizer and 40 year resident of Chico Ken Nass. “From what I’ve heard, the theater will be used for residential property, as well as a food joint.”

Chico’s historic El Rey Theater has been on the market for a year now. It was only until recently that long-time residents and students have taken action to keep the 110-year-old venue.

“I only found out about the group a few weeks ago,” Naas said. “Yes, it had been on the market for a year, but the general public weren’t aware until recently.”

This isn’t the first time the El Rey Theater has faced renovation. In 2005, owner Eric Hart planned to turn the venue into a retail and office space. Plans fell through after Hart realized it would cost too much to renovate.

“Eric and I have owned the building together for almost 10 years,” Justin Maximov, co-owner of El Rey Theater, said. “Anyone could have bought it. The El Rey Alliance has had the opportunity, as well as the rest of Chico, to purchase for the past year.”

At this time, Maximov and Hart cannot reveal any information about the fate of the El Rey Theater. There are rumors that the theater will turn into an office space, but Maximov denies this.

“We think Chico will be very happy with what we’re planning,” Maximov said. “To put it simply, our business model wasn’t working – that’s why we decided to sell. We’ve been losing money since the day we opened”

The El Rey Alliance, according to Naas, does not want the theater to stay the same. They want to keep the building how it is, make repairs and take the theater in a new direction while still preserving its initial beauty.

Last Saturday, the El Rey Alliance congregated at Broadway Heights to discuss and share new ideas.

“This meeting addressed several questions. Like, do we give the money back to those who donated?” Naas said. “Or do we keep trying? Do we meet with the owners? Should we all come together and negotiate?”

Despite the odds, the El Rey Alliance envisions a bright future for the theater. They are positive that a few improvements and a better marketing strategy will draw more of an audience.

“I’m planning on doing shows at the El Rey Theater through the end of the year, but I can’t guarantee that will be the case,” Maximov said.

Katia Berg can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter