Group says it has funds to buy closed Mt. Lebanon theater

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The Denis Theatre Foundation has raised the funds to purchase the Denis Theatre on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon, according to a news release today.

The foundation launched its capital campaign to buy the Denis in October 2009, and since then the campaign has raised more than $663,000 in cash and pledges.

The Denis Theatre Foundation Board of Directors signed an agreement with D. and Neeta Raja, the current owners, to purchase the building for $668,750, which will be covered by the funds raised and some financing. The agreement was reached Tuesday, the deadline for the purchase option, which was extended twice while the foundation worked to raise money.

"We are thrilled to proceed with the purchase and we so appreciate the Rajas' willingness to support this endeavor and move us forward as a community," said Jennifer Smokelin, legal counsel and member of the board of directors.

The Denis Theatre, which opened in 1938, closed in 2004 in disrepair. Purchasing the building is the first step in a $2.5 million plan that would create a venue for independent, foreign language and documentary films; lectures and film series; and meeting rooms for cultural activities.

The foundation said they hope to open the Encore, the first of three planned screening rooms, in 2012.

The money raised by the foundation included a $100,000 grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation and an anonymous $155,000 challenge grant.

The board is searching for a new executive director, since former executive director Anne Kemerer will move to a new role as project adviser, citing family reasons.

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