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The Athena Cinema on Court Street in Athens, Ohio Jan. 19, 2024

The Athena Cinema has no set completion date

Although a grand opening for The Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., has not been announced, the theater is partially open as it undergoes structural repairs to restore parts of the over 100-year-old building. 

While construction is still ongoing, the downstairs theaters, theaters one and two, will remain closed. However, since Jan. 5, the upstairs cinema, Theater Three, has been functioning and showing movies, according to a previous Post report.

According to construction blueprints and other documents obtained by The Post from Ohio University, the main areas of concern were wooden trusses and ponding on the rooftop of The Athena.

The blueprints indicated the project intends to remove the ceiling assembly from theaters one and two and the original plaster ceiling directly below the attic. 

The blueprints said the construction on the ceiling would allow for truss support and construction work. 

The Project Authorization Request, or PAR, specified the capital project budget is $410,000, which includes $47,400 toward professional services and just under $300,000 for construction work. 

OU contracted Columbus-based company Barber and Hoffman, Inc. as the engineers and architects to handle the design work and used a public bid to hire Goodin Building as the contractor, according to the construction contract. 

Interim Associate Vice President of Design and Construction Jonathon Cozad said the choice for Barber and Hoffman, Inc. was because the company has worked with OU frequently on construction projects and is familiar with the campus and older buildings.

“As we finalized the design, we had a fully developed set of plans and specifications for how we wanted to make the repairs in the Athena,” Cozad said. “We put those documents out for a public bid.” 

According to PAR, the original finish date for the construction process was Feb. 9, 2024; however, Cozad said the cinema will remain closed for a while longer. 

“We found a few unforeseen conditions in the building, just things that we didn't know about until we started the construction,” he said. “Everything can be repaired … appropriately; it's just taking a little bit longer to get the plans and the materials together to do that work.”

Cozad said the strategy of splitting up the project’s work allowed them to reopen part of the theater while continuing work on other spaces in the building. He said the original closure of the building was for safety.

“It was out of an abundance of caution to make sure that we had reinforced and restored the structure back to its original condition before we reoccupied the building,” he said. 

Chief Strategy of Operation and Facilities Officer Cimmeron O’Connor said the construction process is more complicated than other projects because of how the building is set up, which has added complications to the project. 

“The work that they're doing is in the ceiling, so they have to remove the theater seats (and) insert scaffolding to access the space where the issue is,” she said.

However, O’Connor said they are still working closely to follow the current plan’s track. 

While the cinema was closed, the Ridges Auditorium showed programsfor The Athena.  

“(The Athena has) been able to create some new programming in the lobby space to generate some additional revenue, utilizing the theater that is open on the third floor and then continuing their programming at the (Ridges) Auditorium,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said despite the theater’s renovations, The Athena continues to be a resource for Athens and provides some programming.

“The Athena has been really resilient during this process,” she said. 

Although there is no grand opening date, Cozad said once they receive more details, they will share that information. For now, they continue to define the construction plans for restoration. 


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