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It's Now The "Peoples Theatre"

By: Todd Baucher, Jillian Risberg, Lauren Weppler Email
By: Todd Baucher, Jillian Risberg, Lauren Weppler Email
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UPDATED: 2/28/2013 at 8:57 p.m.

Take a walk down memory lane, to the Hippodrome, Colony and now People's Theater.

"The gift that People's Bank has given to the Colony in support of the work that they are trying to do to renovate the theater is a tremendous gift," says Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitor's Bureau. "It's a game changer in terms of tourism for Marietta and Washington County."

More to do in Marietta could mean an overnight stay in town that boosts the region's economy.

"Anything you can do downtown to bring people here, to get more people to downtown to spend money, to go to events," says Mayor Joe Matthews. "This will be like an extra event too because people will come to a movie, they will go eat before the event or go out and eat after the event."

The visitor's bureau echoes that sentiment.

"It will also have an impact on our restaurants and on our shopping district and on the other attractions and things there are to see and do across the Mid-Ohio Valley," Knowlton says.

Memories from a bygone era.

"People love their memories of the Hippodrome and the Colony Theater," Knowlton says. "They have such fond thoughts of their childhood or they're bringing their children and grandchildren there. I think that's a legacy that people want to be able to continue."

Matthews remembers when they had minstrel shows and the fireproof curtain is circa 1919.

"The Colony Theater itself has a lot of nostalgia," he says.

The possibilities are endless, harking back to the days of vaudeville acts, Broadway plays, magical acts and silent films.

"Hope they could bring in some pretty first-class events," Matthews says. "We have a diversity of country western, pop and blues. The blues festival every year is a big event here in Marietta and I'm sure (the theater) could be a venue for that also. It's a multitude of things you could have."

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Updated: 2/27/2013 6:30 P.M.

You can still find people who remember going to movies shown at Marietta's Colony Theatre.

"'Bambi'...I remember seeing 'Bambi'," said Barb Palmer.

"And I remember bringing in cans of food as a donation to the humane society...to get in free...or for the food drive," Debbie Friend added.

And it's coming back, with a new name, the Peoples Theatre, with Peoples Bank paying $250,000 for sponsorship. That caps off a $7.4 millilon fundraising effort lasting nearly 15 years.

The theater, probably some time next year, will be reborn, as what it was in the early decades of its history, a place to see live performances.

There are lots of other entertainment venues in the area, but backers believe what is now the peoples theater is unique.

"The seats are tight to the stage, so you can see and hear things, almost without amplified sound," notes Hunt Brawley, Director of Development, Hippodrome-Colony Historical Theatre Association. "We're going to take it back as close as we can to that 1919 era. You can see behind me the firescreen mural that was painted back then. That's probably going to drive a lot of the decorative detail that goes on in this theater."

The first movie shown in this theater, then known as the Hippodrome, in 1919 was Mary Pickford's " Daddy Long Legs." the last, as the Colony Theater in 1985, was Prince's " Purple Rain".

"It did have Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Boris Karloff as live performances," Brawley says. "Then, in 1949, it showed primarily film. But the strength is really the live acts. We think we can bring those major touring acts back."

A reproduction of a program for the Hippodrome showed the Peoples Bank building. That building today is virtually unchanged. but while Peoples was part of its past, it now is part of its future.

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The Colony Theatre in Marietta is one step closer to completing its 6 million dollar renovation project with some help from the state.

The State Department of Development approved $200,000 dollars in federal stimulus funds to be used for the theatre's much needed repairs.

The Development Director of the theatre, Hunt Brawley, said the money will be used for plaster fixes and asbestos removal.

"We will probably still need to raise a little bit of money, but we are getting very close and we are hoping people haven't forgotten about us...We are excited, " said Brawley.

Brawley said he's hoping another grant from the Ohio Department for a GEO thermal heating and cooling system will get the theatre to its limit.

The project is expected to create 236 construction jobs as well 10 jobs to operate the theatre.


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