Bankruptcy hearing for Art Film Foundation started Thursday


Jacob Wargo

The Art Theater’s sign reads “closed” in downtown Champaign. The theater officially closed in October after the Art Film Foundation filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy hearings started Thursday.

By Pranav Gulukota, Longform reporter

The bankruptcy hearing for the Art Film Foundation started on Thursday. 

The chief officer of the Foundation, Leigh Estabrook, was present along with other Art Film Foundation and The Art Theater Co-Op members.

The interactions at Thursday’s hearing was between the Bankruptcy Trustee, Kristin Wilson, the attorney for the Foundation, Cristina Manuel, Leigh Estabrook and other members from The Art Theater, as well as Joseph Chamley, the attorney for the building’s landlord David Kraft. 

Manuel said the Foundation was incorporated in 2015 but merged with The Art Theater Co-Op in 2017.

When asked about outstanding debts, Estabrook said there were new debts every day. The foundation has only $269.59 remaining in their two First Mid Bank accounts.

The foundation also received a grant from the State of Illinois for $13,900 with the stipulation that it would match the money and provide its own $13,900. However, as it is unable to do that, it is unclear what will happen to this grant from the state.

The foundation also received $5,000 for a Latin American Film Festival from the University, and a number of University departments and other organizations owe them money, totaling $2,975 in accounts receivables.

The assets, which include mostly equipment, total somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000, but the seats, counters and anything physically attached to the building does not belong to the foundation.

There were several mysterious deposits from March, one of $6,000 deposited on March 18, which the trustee inquired about. It is unclear whether the deposits are from a fundraiser, which raised $40,000 earlier this year, or from other events such as renting out the theaters or weddings.

As far as unforeseen circumstances are concerned, the theater was closed on several days for two previous winters, during poor weather conditions. These winter closures have been a source of conflict between the foundation and the landlord. 

The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Phillips Recreation Center, Urbana Park District.

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