- Associated Press - Sunday, June 1, 2014

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) - In an effort to finish a project Bill Hardacre dedicated his life to, the Paramount Theatre is asking for donations to completely eliminate the debt the 85-year-old building still owes.

Gayle Burris, executive director of the theater, said $800,000 is still owed on the building’s mortgage. They are hoping to be able to raise that money to honor Hardacre, who died May 11 at the age of 82.

“We think this would be a great way for the community to thank Bill for everything he did for this theater,” Burris told The Herald Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1tzHCde). “Twenty-five years ago, this was going to be a parking lot and he stopped that.”

When Hardacre learned the building was scheduled for demolition, he got a group of people together to buy the building from the county council and get it back up to code. Burris said the group raised $3.7 million to restore the theater to its former glory.

Hardacre’s widow, Ann, said she and Bill grew up going to the Paramount.

“I danced there from the time I was about four,” Ann said. “And Bill would go watch movies there when he was young.”

Ann said her late husband did whatever he could to try and better the community, and saving the Paramount was one of the ways he gave back.

“He wanted to keep it as a meeting place for the community,” she said. “Whenever we attended an event he would always say, ‘It’s a good thing this isn’t a parking lot right now.’”

With all the original money that was raised going toward restoring the building, the amount owed to the bank has been much more difficult to pay off. Burris said the Paramount board members are making progress. The $800,000 deficit was $1.5 million five years ago. Still, plenty of help is needed.

“We have been able to knock the debt down thanks to a very tight budget,” Burris said. “But we need to get it all gone - or at least a big chunk of it.”

She said with as much debt as the Paramount has, it can be tough to book guests to come and perform. She said there are plenty of artists that enjoy playing in old theaters, but the board doesn’t have thousands of dollars to pay for the acts.

“I don’t think some people understand that you have to pay artists when they come play,” Burris said. “And it’s hard to pay people when you owe that much to the bank.”

With a little more financial leeway, Burris said she hopes the Paramount can begin offering more programs for the community to enjoy. More programs would equal more profit, and Burris hopes that will lead to the Paramount being able to thrive in Anderson for many more years.

New generations of Anderson residents being able to enjoy the Paramount was Hardacre’s goal when he decided to save it.

Ann said it would be tremendous if enough money was raised to pay off the remaining debt. She said she was amazed by the memorial contributions made after Hardacre’s funeral.

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