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Julie Lewis

ONEONTA _ The Infamous Stringdusters and Steve Earle will perform at separate concerts in the refurbished Oneonta Theatre after it officially re-opens in about 12 weeks, a presenter said Wednesday.

Ticket sales for the two concerts in August will go on sale Friday afternoon.

The blues and folk music performers make an exciting lineup, said Jon Weiss, talent booker for the theater at 47 Chestnut St., and plans are being made for a grand re-opening event. Businesses and the community have been supportive of revival plans for the theater, he said, and if its re-opening is done "right," it will be a boost to the area.

"We're working to get the doors open," Weiss said. "It's very exciting,"

However, the economic and cultural revival of the historic Oneonta Theatre remains tempered by the reality of costs to run the theater and whether tickets sell, said a local arts advocate and an area business official who has been discussing events with theater administrators.

"Will people show up at the doors? That's always the question," said Rob Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber, which is a sponsor of the Infamous Stringdusters appearance.

The local market has great potential, Robinson said. Weiss and Tom Cormier, theater owner, have done their homework to identify ticket prices the market will bear, Robinson said, but whether the dream becomes reality is a matter concert-goers will determine.

"Only time will tell," Robinson said.

Infamous Stringdusters, a blues group, is set to perform Aug. 5. Tickets cost $22.50 in advance and will be available without service charges in Oneonta at the Green Earth, 4 Market St.; at the Latte Lounge, 196 Main St.; and at Music Square in Southside Mall, Weiss said. Tickets will be $25 the day of the performance, he said, and Northern Eagle Beverages is also sponsoring the concert.

Ticket sales for the Aug. 7 concert with Steve Earle, three-time Grammy winner, and Allison Moorer also will go on sale Friday afternoon, Weiss said, and the cost is $35. The same local outlets will be selling tickets for the Earle concert.

Tickets may also be purchased online at oneontatheatre.com or dansmallspresents.com with a service charge, Weiss said. Dan Smalls Presents promotions firm and the Oneonta Theatre are coproducers of the concerts, which start at 8 p.m., he said.

Robinson said he was able to help secure the Infamous Stringdusters appearance because he was a former neighbor in Binghamton of group member Andy Hall. Those concertgoers who do go into the Oneonta Theatre are likely to be pleased with renovations they see in the historic facility, Robinson said.

The theater was built in 1897 and has 675 seats, plus an enclosed balcony with about 290 seats. The theater presented vaudeville acts in early years and was a long-time movie house. The property is listed on state and national historic registers.

The fate of the theater became an issue last year as former owner Terry Mattison sought a buyer for the property, which also has residential and commercial rental units. The Friends of the Oneonta Theatre, a group of volunteers interested in preserving the landmark building for community use, formed and gained support.

Cormier bought the property in June for $255,000 and embarked on efforts to revive the theater.

According to its website, the Oneonta Theatre will offer a variety of second-run and classic films "at ridiculously low admission prices."

Weiss said construction work continues inside the theater, including bar and concession facilities, refurbishing restrooms and installing lighting and sound equipment. The theater has hired four full-time staffers for technical and administrative work, he said.

The concession stand will offer beers and wines, including locally made beverages, Weiss said, and an application for a beer-and-wine license is pending.

Oneonta Theatre officials continue to seek avenues for area arts and community organizations to use the theater, said Michelle Gardner, chairwoman of the ArtsOtsego events committee. Plans are to include local groups in the re-opening event for the theater, she said.

"They want to have community participation," said Gardner, executive director of Orpheus Theatre, a local production company, and a member of the Friends of the Oneonta Theatre. Weiss and Cormier also seem to recognize the reality that local performing groups aren't able to afford the usual costs to use the theater and that "outside groups" would need to be a key source of revenue, she said.

Cormier and Weiss have made good changes overall to refurbishing the theater and providing lights and sound equipment that will make it a functioning facility, Gardner said. FOTOT and other arts groups continue to be interested in community access to the performance space, she said.

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