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City of Farmington granted additional money for Totah Theater renovations

$135,000 will go toward new digital projection and sound equipment
The historic Totah Theater on Main Street in downtown Farmington was built in 1949. The theater has been awarded a $135,000 grant, which will go toward new digital projection and sound equipment.

FARMINGTON – The Totah Theater has been listed as one of four projects to be awarded funding for revitalization from the New Mexico MainStreet and New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Department spokeswoman Jessica Mraz released a statement saying $1.5 million was awarded to the districts in Farmington, Deming, Lovington and Truth or Consequences.

For a project to be considered, it must be “an economic driver, demonstrate impact on the local economy, improve the appearance and functionality of the district, create connectors and engage local property and business owners,” according to a news release from NMEDD.

“These public infrastructure projects will aid New Mexico’s economic recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic because they create jobs, build confidence in business owners and incentivize commercial property improvements,” Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said.

The project in Farmington, to which the money will be dedicated, is the historic Totah Theater.

“The Totah Theater is a historic gem for our downtown core,” city of Farmington Director of Economic Development Warren Unsicker said in the release. “The ability to not only restore the structure, but provide it with state-of-the-art amenities that will make it an asset to the community, as well as the film industry, is an exciting opportunity.”

In a separate news release, San Juan County spokesman Devin Neeley outlined a few renovations taking place, including upgrades for Americans with Disabilities compliance, infrastructure improvements and equipment upgrades to “make the half-century-old theater state of the art.”

Of the $1.5 million, $135,000 was granted from the New Mexico MainStreet and New Mexico Economic Development Department and will be used to purchase digital projection and sound equipment.

“It is imperative to have fully digital equipment to be able to screen new media, otherwise you are stuck only screening old-run movies,” Unsicker said in an email to The Durango Herald. “Likewise, if we hope to attract screenings, allow studio execs to screen ‘dailies’ or host film festivals, having up-to-date equipment is a must.”

In the news release from Neeley, it says the county and the city are partnering to support incentives to help “bolster” the local economy.

“The film industry in N.M. creates direct spending in the state in excess of $500 million and climbing,” the release from Neeley says. “Productions in San Juan County are eligible for an additional 5% ‘Out of Zone’ tax credit, on top of New Mexico’s already competitive incentives. New Mexico offers up to 35% tax credit.”

The theater will be a place for productions, screenings and have dedicated office space for production companies to work out of.

“This historical jewel in downtown will be restored to its former glory for non-film uses also, like live music, stage shows and as a valuable education facility for local schools,” Neeley said in the release. “Additionally, the state-of-the-art equipment will allow for grand premieres and screenings of local work.”

mmitchell@durangoherald.com

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