Paramount Management Finalist: "We Bring the Best Proposal to the Table"

Kurt Heitmann, a Garrison resident, talks about his vision for the Paramount theater in Peekskill. Heitmann is the principal of Red House Entertainment, one of three groups bidding to manage the theater's operations.

Kurt Heitmann, 48, of Garrison, is the first one to say that there are no easy paths when it comes to bringing the Paramount Center for Performing Arts back to prominence.

But Heitmann, the principal of Red House Entertainment, believes his group has the expertise and experience needed to get the theater up and running.

 "It's going to take some time to bring back acts and it's going to take some time to bring back sponsors who might feel jaded because of their dealings with the other group," said Heitmann, who heads the Red House Entertainment group. "It usually takes six to eight months in advance to book acts. You can't just say 'my theater is open now and I need to get somebody in next Saturday'."

Red House Entertainment is one of three groups that submitted proposals to lease and manage the Paramount from the City of Peekskill. The other two groups are the Tarrytown Music Hall and the Paramount Phoenix Group.

All three candidates are scheduled to present their proposals to the public at a Peekskill Common Council workshop scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, inside city hall.

The Paramount has been closed since October, after the original management group failed to reach its fundraising goals.

Heitmann, a Peekskill native, has been in the sports and entertainment production industry for more than 30 years. He started as sound engineer and worked for a number of acts, including Jimmy Buffett.

He has won four Emmys for his work at ESPN, covering the National Hockey League and the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Heitmann said Red House Entertainment LLC. was formed with the expressed purposed of running the Paramount. He said his team has more than 100 years of combined experience in the entertainment business.

There are also plans to create a nonprofit corporation will focus on working with schools and other nonprofits.

"I have a vested interest in Peekskill and the Paramount," Heitmann said. "For us, it's a unique opportunity and we feel that we bring the best proposal to the table."

Heitmann questioned if an outside group, like the Tarrytown Music Hall, would have the same amount of dedication to the city.

"I'd say that if you want another village running your city's theater, then it makes sense," Heitmann said. "But the interest of the Tarrytown Music Hall is with Tarrytown. The interest of our group is with Peekskill and this area."

Heitmann doesn't believe Paramount can survive if it tries to compete with the Capitol Theater in Port Chester and tries to put on 100 music acts a year. He believes the theater needs to take advantage of the surrounding community, especially the local art scene.

He also believes that it's important for the theater to stay active 5 to 6 days a week. That could mean hosting simulcasts from the Lincoln Center, movies and summer camps, or renting the theater out for events.

"I think the Paramount, in itself, is unique because it is located in a really cool downtown environment and I don't think there are many places around that are similar," Heitmann said.

Heitmann said his group has no interest in changing the exterior or interior of the building.

"We're going to run it the way it needs to be run," Heitmann said. "Obviously, we need to work with the City of Peekskill, but they've indicated that they'd be willing to work with us on a lot of things."

Heitmann said his group probably wouldn't start running evens at the Paramount until June, due to all of the legal matters the city needs to work out with the previous management group.

If chosen, Heitmann said he'd like to kick things off with a summer festival sometime in July.

"Let's face it, the Paramount can't afford another setback," Heitmann said. "It has to be done right this time."

Ian February 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM
I've worked with Kurt many times with my plays at the Garrison School. He's a real professional. I always knew I was in good hands when he was in charge.
Tina Bongar February 11, 2013 at 01:54 PM
I like his Peekskill community spirit, and especially that he's thinking about 5 to 6 day schedule, which would be such a benefit to downtown business. I wonder if he's really up on Jimmy Buffet as that would be great -- Jimmy Buffet is the consummate businessman as well as musician which would be great for the Paramount (I mean, does JB have a salad dressing yet? Just all that Disney Margaritaville franchise thing...) Red Cat also seems to be looking at it as an arts foundation too, which is very good. I'm not sure I like him knocking Tarrytown folks though since he hasn't heard what they're really thinking as their focus. Call me a dreamer, but I hope this becomes a positive and supportive conversation about the many possibilities of the Paramount!
Patty Villanova February 11, 2013 at 02:10 PM
OK. So now we know a little more about this outfit, but how about the other two, especially the mysterious Phoenix Group? There are those of us in and around Peekskill who've been going to the Paramount for over 50 years and who've seen the glory days and the not so glory days. The theater is the heart of Downtown Peekskill and everything depends on its success. I saw firsthand the results of years of mismanagement under the Vesce regime and I hope that the Council or whatever group of politicians is going to make the ultimate decision, will learn from those mistakes. There's a lot riding on this and it's too bad that more weight is not being given to the comments of the general public or some of the professionals in town who know the ins and outs of the entertainment business. We got in trouble the last time for this very reason: just because one can figure out how to get elected or appointed to office does not make one an entrepreneur or a producer. Foster & Co. can't manage the multi-million dollar budget they have for the City without borrowing money. What makes them think they can manage a theater that has a limited budget and has to attract thousands of people to the City? Oh wait, I know the answer, it is their supreme hubris and arrogance..
joshua tanner February 11, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Reimbursements from the Paramount to the city had doubled in 2007 under Vesce just in the years before collapse of economy. After 2004 they had obtained 1.2 million in grants to fix the ceiling. If the economy hadn't tanked and grant money dried up they probably would have chugged along as they had for 25+ years. Whoever takes over the Paramount now really needs to have access to capital and have a plan to attract grants. Any solution that looks like a quick fix won't attract the money needed. Its nice to have good intentions but the economy is not going to be getting better soon. Indeed its a lock to get worse. "Extension of Paramount Theater Lease for 25 Years" http://gatherdemocrats.blogspot.com/2006/12/local-to-peekskill-new-york.html
sayitsnotsojack February 11, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Theare had better not be one and I mean one dollar of taxpayer money spent and no tax deals, who gets it must pay thier way with rents and full taxes to us taxpayers.
john basic February 11, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I am sure Red House has good intentions but I would not turn over the Paramount to a new group that has just been organized. The same would probably hold true for the Phoenix group. If either of the groups had previously run a thertre operation then they would qualify. It seems to me the only choice is to go with the Tarrytown group.
john basic February 11, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Wendy Kelly February 11, 2013 at 05:42 PM
From a business standpoint I totally agree with John Basic needs to be profitable to succeed.
Steve Smith February 11, 2013 at 09:47 PM
....at least somebody in local gov't realizes it's time to hire professionals to run the place instead of some inside political hack who wouldn't have half the sense or the skill to put on a kindergarten play.....
Lois Intravio March 13, 2013 at 03:07 PM
I am so glad that the Paramount will be reopening. I have missed the theater and the volunteer ushering I did at the theater. Hope you will want the volunteers to return and that we will all be notified very soon. Lois Intravio


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