Capitol Theatre’s future is up in lights

Posted 2/22/19

2019 is sure to be a marquee year for the Capitol Theatre. Rome’s art-film movie house is slated to receive $2.5 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding for exterior and interior …

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Capitol Theatre’s future is up in lights

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2019 is sure to be a marquee year for the Capitol Theatre.

Rome’s art-film movie house is slated to receive $2.5 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding for exterior and interior renovations, among other restorative projects, and executive director Art Pierce expects another year of increased community interest in the theater’s diverse programming.

The highest profile Capitol project to begin this year is the reproduction of its 1928 marquee and vertical sign, covered through the DRI.

Aside from LED lettering, the sign will be a faithful copy of the original, reconstructed from archival photos and written accounts.

“The marquee is probably not going to happen this calendar year,” Pierce says. “We’ll contract it this year, but we’re told it’ll take about a year ... to design it and build it.”

Additionally, DRI funds are earmarked for a facade restoration to the 90-year-old building.

In the auditorium, work will begin on the theatre’s Möller organ, built originally to accompany silent films but historically played as moviegoers found their seats.

The organ received some repairs in 2002, but has never been restored to its 1928 condition — a long-term goal that Pierce hopes to move toward this year.

“This is going to be the first time since I’ve been here — probably the first time since it’s been in playable condition — that we’ve been able to spend any sizable amount of money on it, because right now, we’re looking at over $20,000 specifically for the organ,” Pierce said, referring to recent donations received from the Rome Community Foundation and the Sears Foundation.

At 90 years old, the organ needs restorative work — but it also requires upkeep and maintenance to account for its frequent modern usage.

“It’s accompanied many more movies since we’ve brought it back than it did when it was new,” Pierce explained.

“You’ve got a situation where if you don’t play it, it gets to be in really bad shape ... if you do play it, it wears out because you’re playing it. We’ll break it into phases. We’re not going to do all the repairs at once — it’ll be a recurring thing to get the organ back to 1928 condition.”

Pierce believes that the upshot of these capital investments will be an increase in community attention. He said that the theater’s live performance series, Summerstage, had a memorable year, a result he hopes to replicate.

“We had a very successful summerstage season — ‘Mary Poppins’ was a very huge hit, one of the biggest we’ve had in several years, and ‘Young Frankenstein’ was another good show.”

He points to theater’s flagship cinematic event, silent and early-sound film festival Capitolfest, as another example.

“There definitely has been increased interest locally, and that goes along with increased interest from outside the area,” he said.

“Capitolfest is bigger than ever. It continues to grow ... last year, we had the best Capitolfest to date, attendance-wise.”

“I think one of the reasons why we can continue to grow is because there’s such an awareness of older movies with the younger crowd,” he continued. “It’s actually a nice mix — (patrons) are from all over the place, and they’re from all age groups.”

“And they’re coming together in Rome, which to me is one of the best things about it.”

For more information on upcoming Capitol events go online to romecapitol.com, or call 315-337-6453. Also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/romecapitoltheatre.

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