• June 27, 2016

    Clifton Forge, VA – Raising the curtain on Historic Masonic Theatre


    From the Roanoke Times:
    The old stage had to go.

    Workers inside the Historic Masonic Theatre on Main Street in Clifton Forge pried up dry-rotted boards. At least 10 feet above them, pallets dangled from new rigging. The boxes on those pallets contained the new stage curtains, held in suspense until crews finished the unplanned replacement of the stage floor.

    Renovations tend to come with surprises. This one, though inconvenient, wasn’t going to keep the 110-year-old theater from being ready for its July 1 grand reopening.

    Seven years ago, a determined group of residents set up the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation to restore the crumbling theater to life. This month, the $6.5 million construction project is nearly done.

    “It’s not an end. It’s just a beginning,” said John Hillert, the retiree from the insurance industry who started the push to save the theater.

    The grand reopening will include big-band music by the Sway Katz and Americana rock from the Scott Miller Trio, a screening of “The Wizard of Oz,” and tours of the theater, which promoters dub an “architectural treasure.”

    “It’s a remarkable project,” said theater executive director Jeff Stern. “You can feel the love, the desire from the community, in the building when you walk into it. It’s a meaningful part of Clifton Forge and the history of this region.”

    The reopening of the theater launches the most ambitious piece of a concerted effort to recast the 3,884-population town, once home to a major maintenance shop for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, as a hub for creativity and a picturesque destination for tourists. The theater is intended to serve as the crowning jewel of a small downtown with shops, restaurants and galleries all in walking distance.

    “We’re very proud of what’s happening up here,” said Clifton Forge town manager Darlene Burcham.

  • June 21, 2016

    Duluth, MN – An old Duluth theater is finally getting a $30M makeover


    From Bring Me The News: It’s been a long time coming, but next week marks the start of the highly-anticipated restoration of Duluth’s NorShor Theatre.

    The Duluth City Council announced Friday that the $30.5 million project restoring the 100-plus year old arts venue will get underway.

    The art-deco venue – which over its illustrious history has showcased artists including Charlie Chaplin and Duluth’s own “Trampled By Turtles” – will be revamped to “improve visitor experiences, accessibility, expand programs and sustain the theatre into its next century.”

    It marks the end of a 5-year saga to find funding for the project, with the pieces of the puzzle finally falling into place last September.

  • June 17, 2016

    St. Paul, MN – New theaters Strike and North Garden rush to open renovated spaces


    From If all goes according to plan, two new theaters will have opened their doors in the Twin Cities by the time we see our next snowfall. Both will be small, but — their founders hope — essential to their communities. advertisement

    On West Seventh Street in St. Paul, Ryan and Tina North have just saved a historic theater from the wrecking ball. The Garden Theater originally opened exactly 100 years ago as a movie house, but hasn’t been used for entertainment since the 1960s.

    Ryan North says that last year, the city told the previous owner the severely deteriorated building would have to be torn down unless a viable renovation plan was put into place soon. “You could stand where our center stage is going to be,” he recalls, “and look up and see the sky.”

    The Norths, a married couple with a long history in the local theater scene, came up with a plan: They bought the building and will reopen it this fall as North Garden Theater. After renovations, the venue will be a flexible space with the capacity to accommodate an audience of about 150.

    “Tina and I have a couple of ideas,” says Ryan on the shows they’d like to produce in the theater themselves, “but we hope to mostly make it available for all of the nomadic performers and artists and groups who need a space.”

    With the newly opened Schmidt Artist Lofts right across the street, the neighborhood is experiencing a renaissance. “The West Seventh neighborhood has extreme potential,” says Ryan. “It’s already a great, cool little neighborhood, but we think it’s about to just pop.”

  • June 15, 2016

    N. Tonawanda, NY: Historic Riviera Theatre selects Foit-Albert Associates for theater expansion, development project


    From The Historic Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center has selected award-winning Foit-Albert Associates to design the regionally significant Riviera Theatre expansion and development project, which is designed to set the stage for future generations to enjoy the venue.

    Foit-Albert Associates will design a 23,000-square-foot addition in the rear of the theater on a fully remediated brownfield site that will enable the Riviera Theatre to increase the number and type of events offered. The project increases accessibility, includes general upgrades that will benefit patrons and performers, positively influences the theater’s economic impact on the downtown and region, and establishes new and sustainable revenue sources.

    “We are excited to move forward with an architectural partner with extensive experience in the design of new buildings and the restoration of existing facilities that will help us set the stage for an expansion that not only functions and looks great, but also compliments our history and community,” said Gary J. Rouleau, Riviera Theatre co-director.

  • Adrian, MI – Adrian’s Croswell Opera House gets $2.5 million gift


    From Michigan’s oldest theater, in Adrian, has received a hefty gift to help renovate the 150-year-old building.

    The city’s historic Croswell Opera House has been given a $2.5 milion gift from Adrian-native Julianne Argyros and her husband, George. It is the single largest donation in the organization’s history and will be used to bring new life to the one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the United States.

    “The broad base of public support for this campaign is really what helped us demonstrate its viability,” said Croswell board president Emory Schmidt. “None of this could have happened without the incredible support we have received from our community.”

    The Croswell launched a $7.2 million capital campaign to raise money for renovations in 2015. Before Argyros' generous donation, the opera house had raised just short of $5.2 million. The new gift puts them over the top in its fundraising efforts.

  • June 8, 2016

    Berkeley, CA – Berkeley’s UC Theatre reborn as a music venue


    From the Mercury News: It had been decades since I’d last visited Berkeley’s UC Theatre, the groovy repertoire cinema where I enjoyed an epic double feature of the rock documentaries “Stop Making Sense” and “The Last Waltz.”

    Last week, I returned to the building — which closed in 2001 but recently reopened as a 1,400-capacity music venue. And after catching a set from The Rides — the blues-rock supergroup featuring Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboard great Barry Goldberg — I’m happy to report that the officially dubbed UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall is a pretty cool place to see live music.

    The 99-year-old theater has undergone a thorough restoration and looks downright gorgeous. Plus, it boasts an impressive Meyer Sound system and good sightlines, thanks to a three-tiered floor layout.

  • May 31, 2016

    Columbus, OH – Drexel work could get some help from TIF


    From Bexley News: With the Drexel Theatre, 2254 E. Main St., entering the final phase of its $2.5 million renovation, Bexley City Council is scheduled to vote June 14 on tax-increment financing proposal to provide public infrastructure improvements related to the project.

    Todd Bemis, vice president of operations for CAPA Columbus, gave an update at council’s May 24 meeting about the progress of the renovation, which is scheduled for completion in early July. CAPA Columbus runs the Drexel on behalf of the owner, the nonprofit Friends of the Drexel.

    The purpose of the renovation is to restore the Drexel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to its original art deco style that was popular when the theater opened in 1937, Bemis said.

    “The Drexel Theatre is a favorite to many who call Bexley home,” he said. “The theater audience also comes from outside the city. In fact, our numbers show us that over 20 percent of the audience comes from outside (Interstate) 270, not only to support the Drexel, but the other businesses that are here in Bexley.”

  • Butler, PA – Couple Buys & Renovates Starlight Drive-In Theater


    From Drive-in theaters were once as American as snack bar food during intermission.

    Butler’s Pioneer Drive-In opened in 1958. The old theater and snack bar were showing their age when John and Beth Manson purchased and renovated the theater they had visited over the years.

    “We come here on a Friday or Saturday night,” John Manson said. “Pop the hatch, have pillows in the back, lay down, unwind from the week, catch a couple of movies. And we often would talk about what would we do differently if we owned it. Well, we own it now, and we implemented those changes.”

    They still own a 35-millimeter projector, dating back more than 50 years. It will show a handful of movies through the year. But it will then be replaced by digital, joining two other computerized projectors the couple has already purchased.

  • May 25, 2016

    Hoopeston, IL – Historic Lorraine Theatre to be renovated and reopened


    From A historic theatre is about to get a big makeover. The Lorraine Theatre has been closed for about 4 years, but one group is working to restore it to its former glory.

    It’s a project that will probably take 4 or 5 years, but work is getting started next week. Some people say having it reopen would be a dream come true.

    “Welcome back.,” Alex Homes, vice president of the Save the Lorraine Foundation, says to returning customers.

    People used to come to the theatre to see movies. This time they’re just here for the memories.

    “She was one of the original ticket ladies,” a woman gestures to her friend. “You can come back and work for us if you want,” Homes replies.

    It’s been closed for a few years, but people like Jeff Keith are glad to say that’s not permanent.

    He says, “My hope is to see it restored in the city with a box of popcorn and a cold drink one of these days in the not-too-distant future.”

    The theatre opened in 1922, and was restored in 1937. The Save the Lorraine Foundation took over the aging building after it closed in 2012. They’ve made it their mission to recapture and enhance the original atmosphere.

    Keith says, “Plans are to completely remodel it and restore it to that period. As you can see it’s needing a lot of repairs.”

    This wall is one of them. When it was closed the heat was turned off. One winter the pipes froze and busted through the wall. Part of the ceiling above the balcony fell in as well.

    Homes says, “The big nail in the coffin is all of the theatres are switching to digital instead of film.”

    These are just a few things that need to be fixed, along with making it more handicap accessible. Workers have already added a few extra feet to the stage. They’ll use that space for live performances.

    “Not only to come and see films again or to see live performances again, but everyone has stories about the Lorraine,” Homes adds.

    Keith says “I came here as a child, growing up in Hoopeston 3 blocks away. I had my first date many, many years ago.”

    Keith is a loyal customer, but he’s also a member of the Hoopeston Historical Society. He says the town lost a big when the Lorraine closed, and it would be criminal not to bring it back to its original glory.

    He says, “There’s something about the acoustics and I guess hometown feel that makes the Lorraine… It’s in your heart. it’s in your soul.”

    The theatre probably won’t be fully open for a few years, but the foundation says they’re planning on clearing the floor and using the new stage for live performances this fall while work continues.

    You’re probably wondering how they’re going to pay for all of these renovations. The foundation also runs the “Little Lorraine” theatre just down the street. All the money they raise from that and other fundraisers goes directly to fixing up the original. They say they’ve also gotten donations from local businesses and the city.

  • Laconia, NH – Preparations for Colonial Theatre renovation proceeding smoothly


    From The Citizen: It may not look like much is going on from the outside, but preparation work to restore the Colonial Theatre has been proceeding smoothly for the past several months.

    Justin Slattery, the executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, spoke before a gathering of about 75 at the Taylor Community on Tuesday, and told the group he’s been very pleased with efforts made so far to get the facility ready for a major renovation next year.

    “It really is a jewel for the city,” Slattery said. “This building’s historic significance is incredible.”

    Slattery showed slides of work performed this spring to remove steel partitioning put in during the 1980s to turn the Colonial into a multi-plex movie house.

    “They were very careful to cut those steel beams into small pieces so they could be removed safely without damaging any of the artwork inside the theater,” Slattery said.

    He described for the audience his amazement when he saw some of the artwork inside the building once the partitioning was removed.

    “I can’t believe how good a shape the pictures and art is in,” Slattery said. “It’s especially true when this has been sitting there for many years.”

    The building’s roof is in good shape, and plans will soon be worked on about how to best renovate apartments above the theater.

    “We’re looking at turning them into condos or apartments for young professionals that want to be downtown,” Slattery said.

    The three buildings that comprise the renovation project amount to about 38,000 square feet, with the theater taking up 20,000 square feet of space.

    Built in 1914 and hailed for its distinct fresco architecture and unique design qualities, the Colonial Theatre was once at the forefront of 20th century culture in Laconia, hosting traveling vaudeville shows and special events, such as the world premiere of the film “Return to Peyton Place” in 1961.