No, it's not the Proctors Theatre in Schenectady we’re opining on today, but the one in Troy. And it isn't going to be like the one in Schenectady, much as the more than 2,500 people who have signed a petition opposing a developer’s plan to gut the historic theater and replace it with shops and offices would wish that. Nor is it going to be a grand movie palace again; moviegoers these days want variety and stadium seating in a multiplex cinema. In fact, if there was a viable artistic use for the Troy Proctor’s, someone would have tried it — or at least thought of it — during the 32 years it has been vacant.
The problem is the economics. There’s no shortage of theaters in Troy — with Russell Sage, the New York State Theatre Institute, Troy Music Hall, and RPI’s (current owner of Proctor’s) brand-new, high tech performing arts center, EMPAC. And you can’t just look at the venues in Troy but throughout the region, including Proctors Schenectady, the Palace in Albany, The Egg, Cohoes Music Hall and SPAC. Even if the economy and government finances weren’t so dismal, where would the money to fix up the inside of Proctor’s come from? Or the continuing subsidies, since the arts are not a money-maker?
The developer’s $10 million plan, strongly supported by Mayor Harry Tutunjian, isn’t the greatest, but it’s better than more years of desuetude, and would bring downtown workers (approximately 150), economic activity and tax revenue to a city that badly needs all three. It would also — and this is critically important — preserve and even improve Proctor’s handsome, richly detailed facade. That may not be as good as saving the interior and using it for the arts again, but at some point idealism has to give way to realism.