Theater closes, drama continues

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — We told you about the Art Theater suddenly closing its doors late last month.

Since then, there’s been a lot of tension between The Art Film Foundation and the landlord, David Kraft.

Tuesday, the foundation filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That means they can’t make any financial transactions, unless it goes through their court appointed trustee.

Kraft filed a notice of default. He told WCIA that means if they don’t pay him rent by next Tuesday, he gets control of all assets.

The foundation’s lawyer says because of the bankruptcy filing, Kraft can’t do that, and the court could fine him if he tries.

Plus, the foundation’s appointed trustee is not in a position to pay rent, which is also because of the bankruptcy filing.

Kraft said losing the theater meant losing a big chunk of his income. He’s trying to find a new owner to take over and make it a business again as soon as possible, and said he doesn’t understand why this closing process is being drawn out.

“Why?! I want to save this place,” said Kraft. “If they care about this place the way they say that they do, then why are they trying to stop me from getting a new tenant in here?”

WCIA asked the foundation president, Jerry Payonk, why this happened after a fundraising campaign earlier this year successfully raised $25,000 to “save the Art Theater…” bringing them to what (they said at the time) was “the point of developing long-term plans for true sustainability.

We were directed to the foundation’s lawyer for that question.

She told us she’s not sure what specifically that money was used for…but that $25,000 is just a small portion of what it really takes to keep a theater up and running.

WCIA reached out to the Art Theater’s Executive Director, Rhiannon Bettivia, requesting an on camera interview or additional comment.

Bettivia declined to comment further, only stating that they filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Kraft also claims there are missing assets from the theater, including several bottles of alcohol. He says he hasn’t gotten a straight answer about that, and he’s contacted police.

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