Sewickley’s Tull theater seeking creative fare options for space

Monday, July 29, 2019 | 6:00 AM

The Tull Family Theater wants restaurateurs to get creative when crafting ideas that would transform its 2,044-square-foot auxiliary space into a food and beverage venue.

That could mean anything from pop-ups to shared or rotating spaces to various restaurant concepts and business accelerators.

“We are really open. That’s part of why this is so exciting,” said Carolina Thor, executive director of the film-driven cultural center.

The goal of adding a food and beverage venue is to enhance patron experience while bringing in added revenue for the nonprofit theater. The theater is seeking a partner to launch, operate and manage the venue.

After opening in February 2017, Thor said, the theater’s first focus was on fulfilling its mission, which is “to strengthen cultural, educational and entertainment experiences in the region northwest of Pittsburgh.”

The initial focus was to provide quality films, hone in on patron experience and provide programs for those with limited access. Since opening, the theater has shown more than 230 films from a wide array of genres.

During that time, the auxiliary space has been rented out for premiere events and as a venue for free performances. It has served as an overflow space when the lobby becomes too crowded.

Developing that space was seen as a phase two for the theater, so leaders could see what use would best enhance patron experience, Thor said.

A few months ago, the theater formed a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Arts Management Program, which conducted semester-long research on possible uses for the space.

Out of the options presented, it was decided to search for a partner or partners who “could launch and operate a food and beverage concept” in the space, Thor said.

“With Pittsburgh becoming a food destination, we want to extend that a little bit into the suburbs,” she said.

The options are limitless.

“What we envision is something that enhances patron experience, that adds community vitality and really fulfills a need (for) creative food options,” Thor said.

With the theater being open 365 days a year, staff have noticed a need for patrons looking for a bite on the holidays or late night grub beyond the popcorn and movie candies their concession stand offers.

The space also would continue to be used for special events and rentals, with proposals including the coordination and catering of the events.

The venue will assist in the theater’s sustainability, Thor said, by helping to diversity funding sources, so it’s important to find the the right partner.

Thor said patrons often comment that having the theater has improved their quality of life.

“We have an organizational culture that’s respectful and kind,” she said. “It’s important for us to find a partner that will be aligned with the environment here and that will only enhance the experience.”

The theater is seeking requests from proposals as local as Sewickley and Pittsburgh and as far and wide as Philadelphia, New York City, Cleveland and Detroit.

“We want to make sure that we receive a good number of quality responses from a large area,” Thor said.

Proposals are due by Aug. 30.

The board of directors will evaluate and examine the proposals to determine which aligns best with the theater’s goals, Thor said.