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Bryan City Council to vote on management of historic downtown theaters

The Queen and Palace may return to Schulman family
Posted at 5:25 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 19:40:42-04

BRYAN, TX — Bryan City Council will vote Friday to approve a new management agreement over the historic Queen and Palace theaters downtown.

These theaters are jewels in the crown of Downtown Bryan’s history, which have passed through different owners and means of use over the past century.

Now, they may return to the hands of the family who ensured their survival over so many years.

The Palace and Queen theaters both remained closed during the height of the pandemic. Friday, the council will vote on whether to pass the management of these spaces on to the Schulman family and their company EPMC, so that the venues can be once again used for providing the public with movies, concerts, and other entertainment.

“[The Schulmans] started in the movie theater business, in the vaudeville theater business, in 1908, in New Orleans," said Mark Schulman, Bryan-native and President of the EPMC Group in Waco. "And then they went to Houston. They wound up in Bryan-College Station because someone said there was a cow town college called Texas A&M there, and that was the place you needed to be.”

The Schulman's are credited with opening Bryan’s Palace Theater in the 1920s, and with rebuilding the Queen Theater during World War II, maintaining it through the early 90s. In the hands of the Downtown Bryan Association, the Queen was revitalized and reopened in 2018, before being shut down due to the pandemic.

“Ben Hardeman and the members of the Downtown Bryan Association decided that the best for the long-term liability of the project, is that it could kind of be under the city ownership," said Joey Dunn, Bryan deputy city manager. "[We'd] have the city be the caretaker, if you will, to maintain this building and see to it that it will be utilized.”

Dunn noted that he couldn't speculate on the outcome of the council vote.

"They’re eager to see things happen with these facilities," he commented. "They know that the City can’t just sit on the Queen and its ownership and let it sort of be moth-balled. They want to see it engaged and moving forward.”

This venture would be budgeted by the City for a cost of $300,000, as is currently written in the council agenda item. The City of Bryan would still own these properties, but the Schulmans’ company would manage everything from booking events and films, to operating concessions and overseeing employees.

Mark Schulman said he would be interested in consulting with former Downtown Bryan Association members and former City Councilman, Ben Hardeman, who spearheaded the recent revitalization efforts.

"We want to work with everybody," he noted." We certainly want to engage with them, and honestly, I take my hat off to them, because they took a rough stone and polished it and made it real pretty.”

The City Council will have the options to approve this management agreement, deny it, or make adjustments to the agreement, which would require them to meet again for more planning.

Currently, city staff is projecting that these spaces will open under the Schulman’s direction by the coming fall.