Mall says theater group rejected new space; KISS now believes there was no new space

Last updated: March 16. 2014 8:09PM - 2200 Views
By Joe Sylvester jsylvester@civitasmedia.com

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The Wyoming Valley Mall owner announced on its website Saturday that KISS Theatre Co. has rejected an alternative space at the mall for theater performances. However, KISS Producing Artistic Director Christa Manning said there never was another offer.

At least one thing seemed clear amid those conflicting stories, though — the theater group likely will have to find somewhere else to perform.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, or PREIT, a Philadelphia firm that owns the mall, gave notice just over a week ago that the KISS (Kids Innovating Sound & Stage) Theatre Co., located in the mall’s former Great Escape cinema, had 90 days to vacate. But after the theater’s company’s young actors sent stacks of letters to the mall owner, the mall supposedly offered the stage company another location.

In a letter posted to the mall’s website, PREIT told the concerned families the theater had been given another option.

Or that’s what the theater people believed after real estate agents for both sides talked. But, Manning said Saturday, after the theater company’s lawyer got involved in the negotiations, he was told there was no other offer.

Mall officials stand by their story.

The mall’s website stated, “Wyoming Valley Mall has a proud supporter of KISS Theatre for the past five years, providing a space for children’s theater at minimal cost, and also paying to build out their initial space when they were last in need of a new home. Unfortunately our discussions for another space at Wyoming Valley Mall are not acceptable to KISS, but we wish them the best of luck in finding a new home to continue to provide children across the community with enriching experiences.”

The theater group replied on its Facebook page, stating “just the facts,” including that despite the KISS Realtor stating PREIT had made an offer and the mall posting an offer had been made, the theater group’s attorney, when he contacted PREIT’s legal department on Thursday morning, “He was told there absolutely is no offer, that the 90-day eviction still holds. There were NO discussions.”

KISS stated it had brought in revenue to the mall by occupying a previously unoccupied space and drew 150,000 visitors to the mall each year.

On Saturday night, Joseph Ohrin, the mall’s marketing director, released the following statement after The Times Leader contacted him: “The PREIT leasing department was in touch by phone with KISS and had a conversation with KISS about another space at the mall. Our leasing department also discussed some fundraising assistance to help with that idea.”

Ohrin said he could not comment further.

KISS leaders told the newspaper last week they believe the theater, consisting of rehearsal areas, a vast props department, a costume room and a sound stage, is to be converted to a restaurant. Mall officials have not confirmed this to The Times Leader.

KISS is a nonprofit theater company for children actors up to age 18.

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