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The future of the Avalon Theatre, D.C.’s only nonchain cinema, got a little more secure earlier this month. The Avalon Theatre Project, the nonprofit group that rescued the Chevy Chase moviehouse in 2002 and reopened it in 2003, has bought its building from local developer Douglas Jemal for $3.5 million.

Jemal had only recently purchased the 1923 building, which he had previously leased with an option to buy from John Kyle, who owned the theater when Cineplex Odeon left it in 2001. Bill Oberdorfer, executive director of the Avalon Theatre Project, says he doesn’t know when Jemal bought the structure, which also holds a Ben & Jerry’s outlet. But the maverick real-estate magnate, who put an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 into theater renovations, was still leasing from Kyle when the Avalon reopened three years ago.

There are two advantages to owning, Oberdorfer explains. “Basically, the mortgage is less than the rent,” he says. “The other element…is that we filed for an exception from property taxes, which you can do in the District as a nonprofit owner but not as a nonprofit lessor.”

Although ownership doesn’t directly give the nonprofit more flexibility to operate, Oberdorfer says it does “just in the sense that it’s less expensive for us. What it allows us to do is free up more funds for programming and the like. More staff to do more things than we were doing before.”

Posted by Mark Jenkins on Friday, Sept. 22, at 4:39 p.m.