Renovations

  • August 19, 2016

    Charleston, IL – Willstock music festival to raise money for (Will Rogers) theater’s restoration, rehabilitation efforts

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    From The Daily Eastern News: In its heyday, the Will Roger’s Theater was a local hot spot for Big Bands and movies.

    Now, the theater, located in the heart of Charleston, awaits restoration.

    The “Willstock” music festival, set to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kiwanis Park, aims to benefit these rehabilitation efforts.

    Funds raised from the festival will go to this project.

    Though admission is free, donations will be accepted throughout the day and evening.

    According to the festival’s website, organizers have raised over $30,000 of their $100,000 goal.

    Earl Halbe, the president of the project board, said the community is committed to the project.

    Halbe said the board’s vision for the theater once it is restored is to not only host independent film festivals and performances but to also offer a stage for Eastern and Charleston High School students.

    “Will Rogers [will be] an economic anchor,” Halbe said. “[Once opened] it and the other storefronts on the block will make several jobs available, and it’s great for Charleston.”

    Halbe said though the damage looks bad on the outside, the original art deco lights and features on the walls in the theater are still there as well as the original orchestra pit.

    It is the only theater in the area that has an orchestra pit, Halbe added.

    “People think it’s falling apart on the inside, but it’s in fair condition,” Halbe said.

    The theater first opened in 1938 and the adjoining commercial block, containing four storefronts, were completed several years later.

    However, the theater and four storefronts were sold in 2010, and the new owners did not finish the task of re-opening it, Halbe said.

    “What we want to do is involve the entire Charleston community,” Halbe said. “We hope to, within reason, to make it exactly the way it was.”

    According to a press release, The Will Rogers Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and was designated a Landmark Property by the city of Charleston in 2011.

    It was also placed on the list of the ten most threatened historic sites in 2011.

    “Of course it will take some years to be accomplished but we can get it started,” Halbe said.

    The festival will host several performances including headliner Charlotte Martin, a Charleston native and Eastern alumna, who has recorded several major label and independent record albums, according to Willstock’s Facebook page

  • Jackson, MI – Installation process begins for 1,000 new seats in historic Michigan Theatre of Jackson

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    From Mlive.com: While it may eventually be moved from where it’s positioned now, employees worked on installing the first new seat at the historic Michigan Theatre of Jackson on Thursday.

    The other 999 seats will be installed before the end of the fall, said Michigan Theatre Executive Director Steve Tucker. They replace 1,559 red velour seats that were installed around 1951.

  • August 16, 2016

    Pontiac, MI – What we learned from the Flagstar Strand Theatre construction preview

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    From the Oakland Press: One of Pontiac’s oldest performance venues is scheduled to reopen its doors on December 1 after $20 million worth of renovations and rebranding.

    The Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts announced the news during its “Choose Your Seat” event held on Thursday, August 11 at the historic Pontiac venue. Guests had a chance to reserve a seat in the theater for the next three years, priced from $500 to $2,500.

    The event also served as a construction preview that showcased the renovations completed to the date. Guests were given a tour of the progress made in rebuilding the structure’s interior, which is nearly 100 years old.

    “I’m blessed to be here,” said Kyle Westberg, owner of the Strand and developer in downtown Pontiac.

    Aside from the estimated opening date, here is what we learned regarding the Strand’s progress.

    1. Slows BBQ will open in mid-November and operate seven days a week on its own separate schedule

    The Strand will be adjoined to the first and only Slows BBQ location in Oakland County – the company’s fourth restaurant. Slows had previously been offered openings in other parts of Oakland County but turned them all down.

    “Slows said yes to Pontiac 15 minutes after getting the Strand’s offer,” Westberg said.

    The Detroit-based restaurant will serve their signature barbecue dishes including “The Yardbird,” their award-winning pulled and smoked Amish chicken sandwich, along with side dishes, craft beer and cocktail offerings throughout the theater’s bars, lounges and VIP areas.

    1. The venue will feature a mixed bag of performers

    According to the Strand, ““Performers will include an eye-catching mix of national touring artists in Rock, R&B, Blues, Classic Rock, Country, Classical, Jazz and more in addition to touring Broadway, theatrical productions, comedy and family entertainment.”

    1. The Strand almost became another nightclub

    According to Westberg, three buyers were interested in purchasing the theater in 2013. One of the interested purchasers wanted to turn the building, which served as a movie theater from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, into another downtown Pontiac nightclub like Elektricity or Tonic (now defunct).

    Westberg’s company eventually won the bid and has been renovating the Strand in compliance with federal historic restoration processes that give tax breaks to the private sector for rehabilitating and reusing historic buildings.

    1. Movie screenings will take place in a small viewing room

    Westberg said that community outreach is important to the Strand. The company plans to work with Oakland University and Pontiac Schools on concerts and theater productions that will benefit local students.

    Westberg also envisions holding a weekly movie series for Pontiac senior citizens at little to no charge. A small room adjacent to the second level of the theater will have a movie projector installed for small movie viewings and business meetings.

    1. The theater will be an intimate performance destination for high-profile artists

    The renovated Strand will accommodate up to 900 people. The room will feature oversized luxury chairs for added comfort across three levels of seating. Though no performances have been announced, President/CEO Bill Lee has been in talks with acts such as Celine Dion and Chris Rock for booking.

  • August 15, 2016

    Cleveland, OH – Historic La Salle Theatre in Collinwood ready for a $4.1M makeover

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    From Cleveland.com: Depending on how you count it, the historic La Salle Theatre on East 185th Street in Collinwood is embarking on its second, third or fourth life.

    Built in 1927 as movie palace, it languished in the 1990s before becoming a vintage auto showroom and then going vacant for about a decade until now.

    The nonprofit Northeast Shores Development Corp., which helped rescue the building from foreclosure and possible demolition in 2009, is scheduled to launch a $4.1 million renovation Tuesday that will turn the structure into an arts, media, and community center by next May.

    The theater, which could seat 800 for performances or 450 for weddings, dinners and other catered events, will be used as a performing arts rehearsal or recording space, an exhibit hall, a stage for high school theater and arts programs, and as a meeting space for businesses and community organizations.

  • August 12, 2016

    Hollywood, CA – Hollywood Foreign Press Association Funds Half-Million-Dollar Restoration and Upgrades to the Egyptian Theatre

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    From BroadwayWorld.com: The American Cinematheque announced today that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has awarded a $500,000 grant to fund maintenance and essential technical upgrades to the historic 1922 Egyptian Theatre, a designated historic cultural monument situated on iconic Hollywood Boulevard. News of this grant comes less than a week after the HFPA announced at their annual Grants Banquet a completely separate donation of $350,000 to help make the theatre capable of screening 35mm nitrate film prints, a grant that was made through The Film Foundation which is coordinating the project.

    The Egyptian Theatre has the distinction of being the site of the first-ever Hollywood movie premiere under the supervision of master showman Sid Grauman, who premiered some of the greatest hits of the silent era at the Egyptian, and is the only historic theater on Hollywood Boulevard that has continually operated as a cinema to this day. The American Cinematheque purchased the Egyptian Theatre from the city of Los Angeles for $1 in the mid-1990s, with the stipulation that Hollywood’s most historically significant movie palace, undergo a complete restoration, renovation and adaptive re-use remodel.

    “The American Cinematheque is extremely appreciative of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s support of this historic landmark,” said American Cinematheque Chairman Rick Nicita. “It has become a beloved icon of modern movie-goers in the nearly two decades our organization has owned and operated the theater. We are dedicated to preserving this important landmark of Hollywood history where we continue to show movies on the big screen as they were meant to be seen.”

    The Egyptian Theatre also serves as the host of the HFPA’s annuAl Golden Globe Foreign Language Film Symposium.

    “The Egyptian Theatre is a very special place to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – each year it welcomes our Golden Globe Foreign Language Film Symposium and celebrated foreign filmmakers,” said HFPA President Lorenzo Soria. “We want to make sure The Egyptian Theatre brings charm, culture and education to Hollywood for years to come, and continues to be a home away from home for our foreign filmmakers.”

    The scope of the HFPA-funded renovation includes repair from water damage to the main roof and the portico ceiling and walls on the building’s exterior. Inside, water damage to various areas of the ceiling and side walls will be structurally repaired and then restored by historic restoration specialists.

    The theater’s 1998 carpet will be replaced by a custom-designed carpet that brings elements from the showpiece of the theater – the ornate ceiling adorned with a scarab and other Egyptian icons – down to the floor. Other interior renovations include replacement of the concession stand and lighting, and recovering of the theater’s seats.

    Exterior renovations will include the repair of the twelve palm tree planters and the installation of a new lighting system to uplight the trees as well as the columns that flank the entrance. The historic murals of Egyptian deities on the walls will be repaired and repainted. Terrazzo will replace the existing outdoor carpeting to enhance the grand entrance to the building.

    On the technical front, the ten-year-old digital projector will be upgraded to a 4K projector, and the sound system and projection booth electrical infrastructure will be revised.

    Sid Grauman (1879 – 1950) was a master showman in the early days of film exhibition and a founder of the Egyptian Theatre (owned and operated by the American Cinematheque since 1998), where the first Hollywood “premiere” (Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks) was held in 1922. He went on to be part of the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as well. He was a pioneer in the theatrical exhibition of movies and a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, from which he received an honorary Academy Award for his work. His legacy is carried on today through the big screen movie viewing experience provided by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre.

  • August 11, 2016

    St. Paul, MN – Century-Old Former Movie Theater in St. Paul Finds New Life

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    From KSTP.com: A century-old piece of St. Paul history is being saved from the wrecking ball.

    Local actor Ryan North and his wife brought the former Garden Theater at 929 West 7th Street in St. Paul. The building was built in 1916 and closed as a theater in 1960.

    North plans to turn the building into a 150-seat performance venue for theater, music, film and weddings. It will be called the North Garden Theater.

    “It feels great to be able to honor that history and bring part of it back to life,” North said.

    A few weeks ago, the city of St. Paul voted to to move the North Garden Theater forward and next month, North hopes to get a liquor license.

    A few neighbors have brought up concerns over parking and noise at night, but North says most support the project. North plans to start construction in October and be open early next year.

  • Laconia, NH – Fundraising continues for Colonial Theater

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    From The Citizen: The Colonial Theater fundraising efforts and planning are well underway, and recently $30,000 was donated toward the Colonial Theater capital campaign, which has a $2 million goal to raise by the end of the year.

    This donation was by Hali Dearborn and her family, and Belknap EDC Executive Director Justin Slattery said these types of efforts are what will bring them to their goal. He did not provide a dollar amount of where fundraising stood at this time, Slattery was confident that they would reach the goal and said right now “things are on schedule.”

    “Fundraising is going very well,” said Slattery. “We are making great progress.”

  • August 3, 2016

    Middletown, OH – Music Hall’s ‘sister theater’ poised for a rebirth in Middletown

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    From WCPO.com: While Cincinnati’s Music Hall gets a $135 million makeover, the theater’s “sister” is hoping for a rebirth at the hands of some dedicated volunteers.

    The same man who designed Music Hall designed the Sorg Opera House in Middletown; the Sorg was built in the 1890s by Samuel Hannaford. It was later transformed into a movie theater.

    The building was recently bought in foreclosure for $32,000 by a group of local people who want to restore it to its former glory.

  • July 27, 2016

    Nashville, TN – Belcourt Theater’s Dramatic Remodel Expands Cultural Reach — And Accessibility

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    From Nashville Public Radio: Six months after temporarily shutting its doors, the Belcourt Theatre reopened last week, showing off both new updates and meticulous preservations.

    The cinema has restored the designs of its two original theaters, built in 1925 and 1966. But the entrance to the 91-year-old building is modern, sleek and sunny with floor-to-ceiling windows. The seats are more comfortable, says executive director Stephanie Silverman, and the air conditioning now works consistently.

    After the ribbon-cutting, Silverman acknowledged there are big changes throughout – while proudly showing off the new women’s six-stall bathroom.

    Silverman says she’s especially excited about the bathrooms: They not only serve three times as many patrons as before, but they also are now fully accessible, as is the entire theater. Before the renovation, patrons in wheelchairs had to go to another building to use the restroom.

    “It’s hard to change things people love, and they really forgave us for a lot of sins,” she said. “But I hope that now it’s a place that is as supportive of the audience as the audience is of us.”

    The Belcourt, the first home of the Grand Ole Opry, has also expanded to a second floor that includes a third small screening room and an education space.

  • Batesville, AR – Melba Theater opening to celebrate old, new

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    From the Three Rivers Edition: Downtown Batesville’s historic Melba Theater has come a long way from the deteriorating state the theater’s current owners found it in just over a year ago. Now, as the last bits of sawdust are being swept away and fresh layers of paint dry, the theater is wrapping up finishing touches and will soon reopen to the community.

    The grand opening of the Melba Theater, 115 W. Main St., will take place Aug. 12. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the event will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50. Melba Theater owners have spent a year updating and preparing the building for opening night and look forward to seeing people’s reactions to the improvements.

    “It’s been reiterated to us through people’s excitement,” said Janelle Shell, who co-owns the building with her husband, Joe, and another couple, Adam and Mandi Curtwright. “They remember their first movie here, their last movie [here], they remember their first date was here, their first job was here. There are so many attachments that people have to this particular theater that I think we’re excited to bring that back to life.”

    Owners encourage formalwear for the theater’s red-carpet-themed grand-opening celebration, which will include gift bags for guests.

    Adam, who while in banking school with Janelle in Memphis began brainstorming about bringing the theater back to life, has a personal connection to the building.

    “It was my first job in high school, working here,” he said. “My grandma, she graduated high school in this building.”

    The theater is believed to have opened in 1875 as an opera house. In 1916, the building was a mercantile store, then opened as the Melba Theater in 1940. The Batesville Commercial Historic District, which includes the theater, is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

    “The Melba actually opened down the block a little ways in 1934, but it opened here in 1940,” Joe said. “We’ve tried to maintain the history and the spirit of what they originally built there. The ticket booth had been moved to the side and changed, and there were several changes that’ve been made. We tried to kind of go back to the original, of the way it looked, and tried to restore as much as possible.”

    Ticket prices for movies at the 496-seat theater will be $4 across the board — no matter one’s age.

    “We are keeping our pricing low so that families have affordable, family-friendly entertainment,” Janelle said.

    Adam said that moviegoing is a fun experience because while he can’t remember every movie he’s ever seen, he can describe what the moment was like while viewing them.

    “That’s kind of what we were wanting to generate here,” he said. “It might not be the best movie in the world that’s being shown, it might not be the top-rated film of all time, but if you can come and have a good time, and you can afford it and actually sit back and let the rest of the world kind of go to the side for a minute and enjoy yourself, then I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

    Joe said that many people who have visited the theater have a “Melba story.”

    “People that are not from this area that come in and visit say, ‘Oh, I was here back in the ’80s,’ or ‘I did this,’ or ‘I met my husband here,’” he said. “We met one lady whose dad died not long after he brought her here as a young child, and this is one of her few memories of her dad. It’s not just, ‘Oh, we went there and had fun.’ It’s a life-changing experience sometimes, which is an amazing thing to us.”

    Before renovations, Joe said, the building had water damage and asbestos, and also needed treatment for mold and termites. During work on the building, Adam even stepped through the floor because of weak wood. But the building’s steel structure proved sturdy, Joe said, and the owners did not have to replace the existing screen in the theater.

    “As in any old building or an old house or anything, you pull something back and you think, ‘Well, I’m going to fix this one thing,’” Joe said. “And you pull it back and find out you have to fix three things behind it in order to fix it. That’s a lot of the nature of what the job has been.”