110-114 N Water St

This is the former Phelan's Furniture store on North Water Street in downtown Lancaster. The rear of the site is being redeveloped as Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse, to open in March.

THE ISSUE

As Zoetropolis Art House prepares to move and expand its business from 315 W. James St. to the former Phelan’s used furniture store at 110-114 N. Water St., it announced this week that actor Taylor Kinney is now one of its investors. The new, larger location — to be known as Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse — will have more theater seating and also feature a restaurant and a micro-distillery.

As an art house that shows independent, foreign and documentary films often unavailable in metroplex cinemas, Zoetropolis fills a niche in Lancaster County. Its nearest equivalents are Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg or GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading.

The addition of Taylor Kinney — a Neffsville native who stars in the TV series “Chicago Fire” — is a promising sign for Zoetropolis’ future.

The theater broke the news Jan. 2 on its Facebook page in a one-minute video featuring Kinney and Zoetropolis founder and co-owner Leigh Lindsay.

Zoetropolis had been recruiting managing partners and investors as it was progressing on its expansion. Kinney, who lives in Chicago, will provide much more than money — the amount of his investment was not disclosed — and star power.

Managing partner Chelia Huettner described Kinney to LNP as “an active investor. He has participated in a lot of aspects of (the expansion planning).

“He’s given us branding feedback. He’s given us ideas for the grand opening. He’s been to the space a lot of times. He’s been to a chef tasting. He’s given us feedback on our spirits.

“We’re hoping to keep up this level of engagement.”

Kinney told LNP that he plans to do just that.

“I get back to Lancaster fairly often and look forward to being around as much as I can to help out.”

He said in an email to LNP: “I had been looking for the right opportunity to invest in Lancaster for the last few years. ... I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse is expected to open in phases. The theater will debut first, with its inaugural public events being Lancaster Roots & Blues concerts March 9-11.

The restaurant and distillery could open as soon as late April.

The Water Street property has been vacant since Phelan’s closed in 2011. Zoetropolis will lease a 6,400-square-foot area in the rear of the building — nearly double what the art house now occupies.

The theater will feature about 95 seats, including tables and chairs for patrons who buy food at the restaurant to eat while watching a movie.

We’re hoping Zoetropolis leaves behind the worn, vintage upholstered chairs that served as theater seating on James Street. Retro has its charm, but so do easy-to-clean seats when they’re being sat upon often.

The yet-to-be-named restaurant will have its own 80 seats for diners and customers of the microdistillery.

Zoetropolis is owned by five managing partners responsible for the daily operations and six investors, including Kinney.

Kinney, a Lancaster Mennonite High School alumnus and former fiance of Lady Gaga, has acted in movies as well as TV, including the Academy Award-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty.” His brother, Trent, is also an investor in Zoetropolis, as is Trent’s wife, Alexa.

Managing partner Todd Smith and Trent Kinney are friends who wanted to jointly invest in something. It was Trent Kinney who introduced Smith to his brother, knowing Taylor was interested in investing in Lancaster and supporting the arts.

We applaud the actor for his investment in the enterprise and for maintaining strong local ties to the area in which he grew up. And we look forward to Zoetropolis’ future cinematic offerings.

Expanding a business is always a risk. Fortunately for Lancaster city, and its thriving cultural scene, the risk-takers are succeeding.