A major venue in town has changed hands Friday, Feb. 15. Phil and Barbara Calderone bought the Rustic Theatre business from Shane Stewart, who has owned it since 2007. Stewart will continue to own the theater building.
Phil Calderone is the chairman of the Idyllwild CinemaFest and is himself a filmmaker. “This is beyond a dream,” said Calderone of the purchase. “I never thought we could do this, although Barb brought it up a couple years ago.”
“This was one of those daydreaming things,” Barb said, “but once it got close to the day we took over, I couldn’t sleep for a week.”
The Calderones plan to be very hands-on with management of the theater. “I’d like the theater to be one of the hub spots in town, and make it more than just about the theater, but also about helping the town,” Phil said. “We’re open to suggestions from locals regarding programming and concession items.” He encouraged those with ideas and suggestions to email them to [email protected]
Calderone said he would continue the first-run film policy that Stewart had established. And as Stewart had also contemplated, the Calderones hope to be able to offer two first-run movies on the same day at some point in the future. “Right now we’re running an action movie (Bruce Willis in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’),” Calderone said, “that appeals to maybe 40 percent of my audience. I’d like to be able to run a drama as well that would appeal to the balance of my audience. I like options and I’d like to be able to offer the best options we can to our Idyllwild audience.”
He observed that if you have a theater, an audience is entrusted to you. “You don’t want to turn people on and off with your programming choices. You want to keep them engaged.” Calderone will be watching, just as he does with the film festival, to see what films are successful with particular demographics. He said he’d be making what he feels are the best selections for Idyllwild audiences that are available from the distributor.
Barb suggested that some of the changes they are planning involve upgrading available theater concession choices. “We’d like to add some meal-type items, but we won’t be in competition with local restaurants,” she said. “Just adding in some higher-end selections. We’re really energized and excited and hope to serve the community well.” Phil noted that for special events, more food might be made available, possibly brought in from local restaurants. He noted the fact that more theaters in metropolitan areas are offering upscale meal items as part of their concession operations.
Calderone said he’d like to purchase a digital marquee and may do a fundraiser to help make that happen. “It would give us a lot more ability to communicate with the public,” he said. “We want some of the quality available in the theater [digital audio and projection] to be visible as well on the outside of the theater.
“This purchase is really an extension of what I’ve done since I was a kid. I always watched till the end credits of a movie were done.” Now he said, he’d again be watching film end credits, but this time in his own theater.