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CROWN POINT — The public has not walked through the doors of the Crown Theater in half a decade, but since early May, workers have been inside, sharing space with old film posters, discarded projector reels and rolls of unused movie tickets, feverishly working to restore the venue.

The Times was recently given a tour inside Crown Theater by Brad Strom, its new owner. Strom plans to restore the movie house into a setting for live theater, a comedy club and small concert venue. Movies will still be shown in the form of independent films and film festivals. 

Strom said he is also open to ideas from the community.

"It's a blank canvas," Strom said. "People can come in and use this for whatever they want. If people have stuff they want to try, that is what we are here for. I like the arts, I like theater, I like all of it. So whatever we can do to help the community. I've had people reach out for weddings and fundraisers. There is a lot."

Part of the restoration includes raising the ceiling in the lobby where above it sits the projector room. That bulky reel-to-reel film equipment will no longer be needed for movies as Strom is converting to digital projection. 

"You can't get a lot of parts for them anymore," Strom said of the reel-to-reel projectors.

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Seats have been torn out of the rear of the theater where Strom plans to build a balcony or raised platform for seating as well as a VIP area. An old mural sits to the right of the lobby where a bar will go. Vintage theater doors rest against one of the walls in the theater, ready to be refitted and opened again by customers. And across from them lies the the large crown that was a familiar part of the theater's facade. 

Workers removed the crown as they prepare to restore the facade to what it was about a century ago based on photos Strom said he received from a resident. Strom said they will try to repurpose the crown into the design, but if not, it will "go into the right hands," - perhaps in a charity auction to allow someone to preserve it. 

"It is still here and doing OK," Strom said.

Strom said they removed rotted wood from the facade and anything that was not original.

"We are restoring this building to what it was 100 years ago," he said.

Strom, who plans to be open by the first of the year, if not before, has no doubts that Crown Theater will become a cherished part of the downtown square.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.