CROWN POINT — The Star Plaza Theatre has been closed for nearly half a year, but one of its former employees has purchased the long-vacant Crown Theater and hopes to fill the entertainment void left by the iconic Merrillville venue by bringing some of it to the downtown square.
Brad Strom, who closed on the purchase of the Crown Theater on Tuesday, had multiple titles in his 15 years at the Star Plaza Theatre. He started as a "popcorn kid" at the age of 15 and eventually had multiple titles including theater manager.
"I never missed a show in its entire existence," Strom said.
As news was coming that the Star Plaza was closing, Strom, who lives in Crown Point, drove by the shuttered Crown Theater every day and saw an opportunity to bring what he loved that was leaving to that downtown location.
Strom said plans call for the Crown Theater, which will retain its name, to be turned into a comedy club, small concert venue and live theater venue for performances and children's shows.
The Star Plaza had 3,400 seats, compared to the 400 to 500 at Crown Theater. Strom said they had "tons of acts" that wanted to perform at the Star Plaza but could not because of the size.
Strom and his partners are looking to book some up-and-coming artists that the Star Plaza was too big for.
"It is not just gonna be people you've never heard of," Strom said. "We are going to get the people that people want to see. There are a lot of bars on the square. We're looking for people to come out and give them something else to do. Something that is a different experience."
Strom said in addition to live theater, which would fill a void left when Crown Point Community Theatre closed last year, movies could return to the Crown Theater in the form of independent films. Children's shows could be similar to those that used to perform at the Star Plaza like "Sesame Street Live." The Indiana Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker," a longtime staple at the Star, could also perform at the Crown Theater.
"We're going to open it up to a little bit of everything over there," Strom said.
Strom said they will also be looking into designs that would feature more stage space or more seats. But there is a lot of work to do — about six months of renovations are planned.
"We're excited," he said.
Also excited is Mayor David Uran, who broke the news alongside Strom during his monthly meeting with residents, "Tuesday Talks with Mayor Uran," at the American Legion Post 20. Uran said it will be a great destination place for families.
"That will be a nice piece on the west side of the square that will really add to the current viability to our downtown," he said.
Strom wouldn't give a grand opening date, but work begins immediately.
"First impressions are huge," he said. "You'll know when it is ready."