Sale of Missoula's Wilma Theatre canceled

2012-07-11T05:30:00Z 2013-12-02T17:43:21Z Sale of Missoula's Wilma Theatre canceledBy JENNA CEDERBERG of the Missoulian missoulian.com

The Wilma Theatre is no longer for sale.

The owners of the downtown Missoula landmark announced Tuesday that a potential sale to Bozeman arts and music promoter Stephen Michael has been canceled.

Rocky Mountain Development Group will continue to own the theater for the “indefinite future,” co-owner Rick Wishcamper said.

Rocky Mountain listed the theater for sale at $1.8 million in late September 2011. In late February, the Missoulian reported that Michael was under contract to purchase it.

Michael owns SRO Live of Bozeman, which promotes itself online as an “artist-friendly publishing business specializing in publishing and recording live events.” Michael is listed as founder and as a live-event music producer who has long worked in the music industry.

Michael did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Wishcamper noted in February that commercial real estate deals can be volatile, but didn’t give a particular reason for the cancellation of the sale to Michael.

“These things happen,” Wishcamper said.

Moving forward, Wishcamper said Rocky Mountain will explore ways to improve the theater to make it as “vital and energetic” as it can be. That could mean Rocky Mountain runs it alone, through a partnership or sells it to the right owner down the road.

The Wilma will continue to be managed by Marcus Duckwitz and continue to host live events, two film festivals, nightly movies and nonprofit benefits, Wishcamper said.

Further upgrades will wait as Rocky Mountain determines its exact path forward, Wishcamper said.

***

Wishcamper and business partner Justin Metcalf purchased the Wilma building in 2007. They renovated and sold the condominium spaces above the theater, as well as office space on the Caras Park level. The Higgins Avenue-level theater space has seen more than $500,000 worth of renovations since 2007. Those included a new $200,000 sound system and an overhaul of the bathrooms on the theater’s balcony level.

Rocky Mountain decided to put the theater up for sale last summer to focus exclusively on the real estate side of the business, specifically the development of multifamily housing complexes around the country.

But Wishcamper has said since putting the theater up for sale that any sales contract would include a provision of perpetual use to keep it functioning as a theater offering live entertainment, movies and other events.

On Tuesday, Wishcamper said going through the sales process reinforced for Rocky Mountain the need to keep the theater as a community asset.

“The most noteworthy thing to come out of the process was how much we love the theater and what a sense of responsibility and stewardship we feel for it in terms of what the next step might be,” Wishcamper said. “We still believe that the Wilma can be taken to another level. We’re going to explore options to do that.”

Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. factsonly
    Report Abuse
    factsonly - July 11, 2012 4:14 pm
    I was not surprised by today's announcement that the Wilma Theater would not be sold. However, the use of the word "canceled" did send up a flag.
    Who canceled, why and when? Was there a default? The controversy surrounding Mr. Stephen Michael and those three theaters is like a cancer.
    Missoula residents who are dismayed with the city politics should contact the Bozeman and Butte communities to discover the reputation and history
    of this couple. There is a surprising under- toe to this murky spring water. Do your homework!
  2. Drummer
    Report Abuse
    Drummer - July 10, 2012 10:36 pm
    It was a wise move on the part of Stephen Michael who canceled the contract to purchase the Wilma. Missoula is not a good place for businesses to re-locate or start up. Between City Council and the County Commissioners, this town has become too over-regulated. The down-town is becoming a "slum." People who have owned businesses and contributed to this community are being "squeezed out," and treated badly. I encourage anyone wanting to start a business to by-pass Missoula. You will make money elsewhere. Close call Stephen Michael!
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