A historic program for our historic theatres.

Idaho's Historic Theatre Revitalization Subgrant Program

Idaho Heritage Trust was awarded $750,000 in federal funding to establish a subgrant program to facilitate the restoration and preservation of historic theaters in Idaho’s rural communities (defined as having a population less than 50,000). This project is supported through the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant Program funded by the Historic Preservation Fund as administered by the National Park Service (NPS), Department of Interior. These funds are intended for use in large-scale, high-cost projects that are fundamental to the continued health and safe use of these integral spaces. IHT anticipates most requests to be within the $15,000-$100,000 range.

Listen to our Virtual Informative Q&A Session to learn about the subgrant program here.  

A letter of intent to be considered for the subgrant program is due to IHT by May 1st, 2023. 

What follows are the goals and objectives of this subgrant program, eligibility & selection criteria, timeline and process, and the Grantee’s responsibilities and obligations. If you have any questions whatsoever, please reach out directly for assistance.

“Since the completion of the Wilson Theatre, the City of Rupert has seen a
substantial increase in tourist visits, additional City growth and beautification, and enjoyed a general surge of
community pride.”

Senator Kelly Anton

Program Description

IHT’s Historic Theatre Subgrant Program will support the rehabilitation of historic theatre properties of significance at the national, state, and local level in order to restore and protect the heritage of Idaho’s rich theatrical history, ensure our rural communities have access to the arts and culture, reinvigorate key economic and social hubs on historic Main Streets, and to provide a tool for our rural communities to capitalize on Idaho’s growing population and heritage tourism industry.

In order to be considered for funding, proposed projects must have the potential to make an impact in the following areas. While developing your scope of work, crafting your letter of intent, and building your application, please keep the following in mind and reference them when relevant.

The continued cultural and social importance of public theatres make preserving such buildings of the utmost importance to IHT. They are often architecturally interesting and unique, reflecting the time and purpose of their creation, and evoke a rare sense of place both inside and out. Ensuring the continued use of these spaces as intended is the best safeguard against losing unique architectural touchstones. 

From the Vaudeville shows of the late 1800s to the rise of film in the early 20th Century and up until this very day, Idaho’s historic theatres have proven vitally important to enriching the lives of our rural residents. Not only do they provide a venue for traditional theatre performances, theatres also offer an increasingly broad range of unique cultural opportunities and serve a key role as a multi-use space for everything from community meetings and school performances to fundraisers and celebrations. 

Theatres have been identified as a key economic driver on small town Main Streets. A recent study by the State of Oregon found that, “For every ticket purchased, $24.42 in additional arts-related spending goes to support local businesses.” The businesses that stand to gain the most from increased patronage, such as restaurants, art galleries, retail stores, and hotels, are also in need of the most post-pandemic economic stimulus.
Idaho is currently the 2nd fastest growing state in the country. Investing in the amenities and infrastructure of our rural communities will make them attractive destinations for residents to explore the heritage, history, and culture of their new home. Using sub-grant funds to address the physical needs of your building will allow you to spend more on marketing, programming, and outreach.

Grant Funding

Grant recipients must fund a minimum of 10% of the total project cost. (e.g., if the project cost is $100,000, then the grant request amount can be no more than $90,000)

Ninety (90%) of the grant award will be funded by the Historic Preservation Fund as administered by the National Park Service (NPS), Department of Interior. Ten (10%) of the grant award will be funded by the Idaho Heritage Trust Endowment. 

Project costs that occur outside of the grant period do not qualify. The grant period begins once Grant Award Agreement has been executed. 

This is a reimbursement grant, so the scope of work must be completed before the funds are reimbursed to the grant recipient. Progress payments are allowed and encouraged.


The following rules determine if a property or project meets the requirements for funding through this subgrant program. Please note that all criteria must be met. 

For the purposes of this grant, the property in question must be the following:

  • Properties originally designed and constructed with the express purpose as a venue for dramatic performance, film screenings, or a combination thereof.
  • Includes DriveIn Movie Theaters
  • Is currently being used for the above purposes, or, if currently closed, will be used primarily for these purposes upon reopening.
  • Historic Theater properties need to be at least 50 years old and/or have been used for the express purpose as a theater for 50 years. 

Private property owners, state agencies, local governments, tribal governments, certified local governments or nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations in good standing with the IRS and the Idaho Secretary of State may apply. The theatre owner does not have to be the applicant, but a letter of consent must be submitted with the application. If awarded, the property owner and applying organization will be required to sign the Grant Award Agreement and applicable Preservation Easement / Covenant Agreements. 

Historic theatres listed in or determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places are eligible to apply. A Determination of Eligibility must be made by the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). To begin this process, complete a National Register Preliminary Eligibility Questionnaire and submit it as soon as possible to SHPO. If awarded a grant, the Idaho Heritage Trust will work with the Grantee to complete a nomination to the National Register before the project is completed. The cost for the nomination will be funded by the Historic Preservation Fund as administered by the National Park Service (NPS), Department of Interior. 

The Historic Theatre must be located in communities defined as rural by the US Census Bureau (less than 50,000). 

The grant funds are to be used for “bricks and mortar” projects in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties for preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of historic theater properties. Examples may include any of the following:

  • Measures necessary to stabilize and repair the building; including foundation work, re-pointing of masonry, restoring windows, resecuring and restoring marquees, and re-roofs.
  • Measures necessary to repair and preserve the physical condition of character-defining materials and features of the theater including plasterwork and architectural details, stages, curtains, box office, lobby, lighting, and seating.
  • Upgrades to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code related work to enhance the property’s accessibility and functional requirements can be included as a portion of a larger restoration project. Examples may include complying with barrier-free access requirements, installing sensitively-designed fire suppression systems, or new mechanical or electrical systems in such a manner that the historical building’s character-defining features and finishes are preserved or impacted as little as possible.
  • Restoring an historic theatre as it appeared during its era of significance by means of removal of features from other periods or reconstruction of missing features, so long as clear photographic evidence is available to substantiate this approach.
  • Necessary project “soft” costs for professional services (i.e., architectural or engineering studies or plans directly related to the project) may be included but are not to exceed 20% of the total cost.
Projects ineligible for funding include:
  • Construction of new theaters.
  • Reconstruction of an historic theater property.
  • Acquisition or purchase of an Historic Theater.
  • Moving historic theaters or work on a moved historic theater no longer eligible for listing in the NRHP.
  • Landscaping, parking, or general site improvements unless required for ADA access.
  • Costs for work already completed or funded through other federal programs.
  • Operational routine maintenance or long-term maintenance beyond the grant period.

Application and Submission

All pertinent documents will be provided through IHT’s Grant Portal and applicants must complete the necessary forms therein by the stated deadline. This includes the initial Letter of Intent. A link to the portal is at the bottom of this page.

Prior to the official grant application process, a letter of Intent from a prospective Grant Applicant shall be submitted to the IHT for review and selection. Applicants selected through this process are eligible to apply for the Historic Theatre Revitalization Subgrant and will receive subsequent site visits by IHT representatives and technical experts in advance of submitting your application. Applicants will be selected based on the highest probability of success in meeting the requirements of the grant. You can view the Letter of Intent questions and documents required here.

The submission deadline for the Letter of Intent is 11:59 PM, MST on the date noted at the bottom of this page. Following the Letter of Intent submittal, applicants will be invited to apply for the Historic Theatre Revitalization Subgrant. Applications must be completed through the IHT Grant Portal and submitted no later than 11:59 PM, MST, on the closing date noted on the application.
The application will include narrative questions and document uploads applicable to each of the following areas:
  • Project Description – Project narratives shall address each of the selection criteria listed below.
  • Budget Summary – Description and detailed breakdown of estimated project costs for each sub-contractor. (Or competitive bids if available)
  • Project Images – Upload photos illustrating the area of proposed scope of work.
  • Organization Overview – Describe the mission and structure of the organization and proof of nonprofit status (if applicable).
  • Letters of Support – Attach any letters of support from government officials, any applicable economic development agencies, or main street program directors.

Selection Criteria

  1. Describe the community’s level of need for revitalization and economic development. Define the projects resulting financial impact to the theater and community.
  2. Discuss how this project will preserve the history of the theater for future generations.
  3. Can the theater demonstrate a meaningful historic connection to or who are currently in service to an under-represented community? (i.e.: migrant workers, Indigenous peoples, Japanese American WWII prisoners)
  4. Describe the community’s level of need for revitalization and economic development. Define the projects resulting financial impact to the theater and community.
  5. Discuss how this project will preserve the history of the theater for future generations.
  1. Describe the need, urgency, or treat to the property and proposed scope of work.
  2. Well-prioritized, clearly explained scope of work with an appropriate level of detail.
  3. Consistency with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. No adverse effect on the historic property.
  4. Describe the level of project readiness, and ability to produce plans that easily move through the NPS review process.
  5. Define how competitive bids will be obtained and the contractors’ qualifications and experience with historic properties.
  1. Describe organizational experience to complete restoration projects.
  2. Briefly describe who will be involved in managing the project.
  3. Demonstrate how the project will be completed within the timeframe, while meeting all federal reviews and requirements.
  4. Discuss the elements of your budget summary how you will obtain a minimum of 3 competitive bids for the project.
  5. Do you have the 10% matching funds in hand or your plans to raise the match.
  1. Describe the current operations and proposed operations upon completion of the project.
  2. Describe how the project will enhance the theater’s future programming.
  3. Describe how the project will ensure long-term preservation and continued use of the theater.
  4. Briefly describe any future restoration projects.
  5. Discuss your plan to maintain and operate the property for 10-20 years.

Review & Selection Process

Prior to the Application deadline and upon request, IHT can provide an initial review to determine whether: (1) all information required has been submitted; and (2) the applicant is responsive to the program goals & objectives. If any information is missing, the applicant will be provided feedback to address the incomplete responses. 

All applications that satisfactorily pass the initial review will be eligible for the Technical Evaluation. Each criteria includes 5 questions to be addressed and each will be scored a 1 (low) – 5 (high) based on the rating guideline below. There are 25 total points available for each of the four criteria. The scoring of each criterion is based on the strengths and weaknesses of the application narratives.

The first review will be performed by a Technical Review Committee comprised of representatives from the Idaho Heritage Trust Board and staff, the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. The Technical Review Committee members will individually complete a Review based on the following scoring. A total score will be calculated for each of the reviewers, and a total for each applicant from the entire Technical Review Committee.

The Board of Directors will review the applications and consider the Technical Review committee’s evaluations and the amount of funds available to select applications for funding. All proposals submitted will be considered using the criteria outlined above.

Grant Award Requirements

Owners of Historic theatres shall allow their building to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the completion of the project. In coordination with the Grantee, the Idaho Heritage Trust will complete the nomination and submit to the NPS for review and approval.
Grantees shall provide proof of competitive bids from a minimum of 3 contractors prior to commencement of construction.
All grant recipients shall provide evidence of General Liability Insurance. Privately-owned or non-profit building owners shall provide proof of Fire and Extended Building Insurance. It is recommended that all applicants require General Liability and Worker’s Comp Insurance from their contractors.
Owners of historic theaters will allow the Idaho Heritage Trust to install a Project Sign for the duration of the project.
Owners of the historic theaters will allow IHT to take photographs and video before and after completion of the project. Grantees agree to provide in-progress photographs.
The Grantee shall provide annual economic impact reports for five years following the completion of the scope of work. The improvements made to the theater using the sub-grant funds shall contribute to economic growth of the theater and community.
Owners of historic theaters that benefit from a grant award in excess of $50,000 must enter into a Preservation Easement with the Idaho SHPO. Upon funding of the grant, the Preservation Easement will be signed, notarized, and recorded on the deed of the property and will require that the building owner maintain:
  • the historic character and physical integrity of the building,
  • the improvements made through the grant, and
  • communication with Idaho SHPO regarding all future major projects on the building.

The period of the Exhibit A – Preservation Easement depends on the amount awarded, based on the table: 

Federal Assistance ($ Amount)Time Requirement / Type of Document
1 - 50,0005-year minimum preservation agreement. A covenant/easement amending the deed is not required.
50,001 - 250,00010-year minimum covenant/easement amending the deed is required.

Public Relations Obligations

Community engagement is one of the best ways to ensure your project’s long-term success. Our requirements are designed to help you capitalize on your newfound status as grantees and are as follows: 

We urge you to send letters to the Congressional Delegates in your District thanking them for their continued support of the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Program funded by the Historic Preservation Fund and administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior. A thank you template including required information is provided for your convenience here

Local press is a wonderful resource for raising awareness of your project, engendering public support, and promoting fundraising opportunities. In cooperation with IHT, please write an article or press release about your project for your local newspaper acknowledging the support from the National Park Service and the Idaho Heritage Trust. A template for an effective news release is provided for your use here.

Through your organization’s Facebook page, ‘like’ the Idaho Heritage Trust’s business page and tag us when you share progress photos of your project. Keep your page up to date and post periodically about the progress on your project. https://www.facebook.com/idahoheritagetrust

We encourage each Grantee to create a public event to celebrate the completion of the project and acknowledge the grant funding. We request and appreciate if you include the Idaho Heritage Trust in the planning of your event, so that we can ensure all of the appropriate dignitaries receive an invitation and the NPS and IHT are included in your event’s welcoming remarks.


  • March 15, 2023 – Information Q&A Session with representatives of the Idaho Heritage Trust, the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, and the Idaho Main Street Program. 
  • May 1, 2023, 11:59 PM MST – Letters of Intent Deadline
  • May 15, 2023 – Invitations to apply for a Historic Theatre Grant release.
  • May 15, 2023 – August 15, 2023 – Technical Assistance site visits with theatres to provide guidance for project activities and help define the scope of work to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. 
  • August 15, 2023, 11:59 PM MST – Grant Application Deadline
  • September 15, 2023 – Grant Award Selection
  • October – November – National Park Service Review
  • December 2023 – Grant Award Notification
  • February 28, 2024 11:59 PM MST – Architectural Plans & Specifications Deadline
  • March – May – National Park Service, Section 106 Review & NEPA Review and Approval
  • May 1, 2024: Competitive Bids Submittal Deadline
  • June 1, 2024 – Work Commencement upon final approval from the National Park Service
  • June 1, 2025 – Work Completion Deadline
  • July 1, 2025 – Final Report Deadline

This may seem like a tall task but know that we are available to assist you with any questions or concerns at every step of the process. We are here to help!

Grant Period: January 1, 2024 – June 30, 2025

Award Amount

$15,000 - $100,000

Requires a 10% cash match. 

Letter of Intent Deadline

May 1, 2023
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