Update: Seat Donors Respond to Byrd Theatre Decision 

Foundation decides against accepting offer of seating, but has other plans in the works.

The seats in question, which appear more burgundy than in this photo, were from the Grand Théâtre Lumière, the main theater for the Cannes Film Festival.

The seats in question, which appear more burgundy than in this photo, were from the Grand Théâtre Lumière, the main theater for the Cannes Film Festival.

The Byrd Theatre Foundation has voted against accepting a donation of seats from The Grand Théâtre Lumière, the main theater for the Cannes Film Festival.

As Brent Baldwin reported in March:

The deal was brokered by Pierre-William Glenn, president of the Commission Supérieure Technique (CST) de l'Image et du Son, which awards the Prix Vulcain de l'Artiste Technicien for technical achievement at Cannes. Many of the same French technicians from Cannes help stage the French Film Festival, and Glenn has been a frequent speaker at the Byrd. Impressed by the theater, Glenn once made a short film about the connection between the Byrd and the French film industry.

One of the seats was displayed at the recent French Film Festival.

But the deal hasn't come to fruition. Melissa Savenko, president of the Byrd Theatre Foundation, confirms the nonprofit board's decision. She says the foundation will elaborate on its plans in a press release later today. We'll have an update on Styleweekly.com.

Update, 6 p.m.: The Byrd Theatre Foundation has released a statement expanding on its its decision:

“We remain unbelievably humbled at this grand gesture, as well as honored by the great lengths so many individuals went through to get the offer on the table,” said Melissa Savenko, Foundation President. “Ultimately our decision was based on the significant out-of-pocket expense to the Foundation, as well as the uncertainty regarding the possible impact on the historic tax credits, which are critical to the Theatre's restoration.”

After meeting with the festival leadership following the French Film Festival, the Byrd Theatre Foundation had a window of two weeks to decide whether or not to accept 1,200 seats, to be used on a temporary basis until original seating can be replaced. The Grand Théâtre Lumière will begin disassembling and replacing seats after the Cannes Festival ends, May 25.

The impact on pending restoration plans, the logistical barriers and the existing timeline with respect to historic tax credits were cited as the biggest concerns. Additionally, the costs associated with the removal and storage of the original seats, as well as the costs of installation of the Cannes seats, were major contributing factors in to the Board’s decision.

The seats from the Grand Théâtre Lumière are constructed with a center bracket, versus the Byrd’s current model using brackets on either side. The installation of these seat brackets poses potential risk in damaging the floor.

The foundation says it expects overall restoration to be complete by 2017, and will release a formal plan within 60 days.

Update, May 9, 12:30 p.m.: In previous reporting, we attributed a $1.3 million cost associated with the Byrd Theatre seats to French Film Festival co-founder Peter Kirkpatrick. That was inaccurate. In clarifying that figure with Style today, Kirkpatrick says it would cost $1.3 million to manufacture the Byrd Theatre seats today. That number comes from a manufacturer that was provided with a sample chair from the Byrd Theatre, he says.

There appears to be no exact estimate available on the total cost of the Cannes donation, which would include such expenses as dismantling, packaging and shipping. The seats would be considered at a gift value of zero for tax-reporting purposes, but the declared value for customs clearing would be between $200,000 and $300,000.

Update, May 12, 10 a.m.: The French Film Festival has responded to the decision of the Byrd Foundation with the following press release, shown here in its entirety:

It is with great disappointment that we learned of the Byrd Theatre Foundation’s decision to not accept the proposed seats from the historic Salle Lumière located in the Cannes Film Festival Palace. The beloved and historic Byrd Theatre has hosted the French Film Festival’s directors, actors, cinematographers and public since 1996 and each year is professionally pampered and optically-tweaked by the Commission Supérieure Technique de l’Image et du Son (CST) technicians from France -- responsible for all projections at the Cannes Film Festival -- at no cost to the Byrd. The attachment and fondness for the Byrd, one of the few remaining cinematic jewels in the US, shared by our French delegation and by CST President, Pierre-William Glenn, generated their desire to help and join in the effort to bring the Byrd Theatre back to its full glory.

The Cannes chairs donation proposal was thought to be a strong first step by creating a unique, high-profile and comfortable temporary seating solution for the Byrd which could have also assisted in generating even more interest by other donors to come forward to help with future phased-in renovation projects. In fact, this goodwill has already been demonstrated by individuals and donors in the US and in France willing to help defray the approximate $150,000 cost that the French Film Festival - Richmond, Virginia was facing for the dismantling, packing, shipping, customs clearing, storing and even the installing of the Cannes seats in the Byrd.

The Cannes seats proposal will shortly no longer be an option and consequently not a possibility for temporary installation in the Byrd. The recent decision of the Byrd Theatre Foundation, although very disappointing to the French Film Festival – Richmond, Virginia and its friends in the US and France, does not in any way affect our full commitment and dedication to the restoration of the Byrd Theatre. The French Film Festival looks forward to receiving the Byrd Foundation’s announced 2017 restoration plans within the next sixty-days, to meeting all the Foundation’s board members, and to discussing how best to work together on arriving at a successful outcome for the benefit of all our viewers and for the future of one of America’s last remaining cinema palaces, the Byrd Theatre.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have participated in putting together the Cannes seats project, especially Pierre-William Glenn, the CST, his colleagues at the Cannes Film Festival and the city of Cannes. On the American-side, we truly appreciate all the community efforts of those who have come forward since March to assist in making the project a possibility, in particular Todd Bassett, Managing Director at Fi-Tech, Inc., for his guidance and generosity regarding the transatlantic shipping logistics.

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