Crews working on renovating historic downtown Swainsboro theatre

Published: Jun. 7, 2018 at 8:05 AM EDT
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Thursday, June 7, 2018

SWAINSBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The stage is set for a renovation project for the Historic Dixie Theatre in downtown Swainsboro.

It's an empty building now, but Gloria Mason has plenty of fond memories at the site of the Dixie Theatre. She went on her first date with her husband here.

"I thought it was just wonderful, because he was going to bring me to the Dixie Theatre to have some popcorn and Coca-Cola," she says.

They watched a Western. She doesn't remember exactly which one, but she remembers after the film they held hands for the first time and the rest was history.

Co-chair for the Historic Dixie Theatre Renovation Project, Bobby Reeves, says the theatre was a special place for a lot of people.

He says, "Its part of our community pride. It's part of our history. We want to preserve that part of our history."

The curtains came down on the Dixie Theatre 50 years ago. When the opportunity came around to bring it back to life, the city jumped on it.

Reeves says, "We're now getting ready to start the process of getting it back like it was back in the heyday of the movies in the 30's, 40's, and 50's."

The theatre first opened its doors in 1934, when a ticket cost you about a dime. It closed down in the late 60's and became a department store.

In 2014, it was vacant. Reeves says, "The grandchildren of the man who built it, donated it in the effort to restore it."

William Karrh opened up the theatre in the 30's. He went on to build other theaters in the Southeast, but kept close ties to Swainsboro.

The theatre is expected to be completed next year. It's going to be a place where you can catch more than just a flick. At the Historic Dixie Theatre there will be the Barbara & Tobe Karrh Community Arts Center.

There will be a stage for live performances, space for an art gallery, and potentially loft apartments.

Director of Downtown Development for the City of Swainsboro, Lynn Brinson, says, "We've had a lot of downtown revitalization over the last few years and I think this will continue to breathe new life."

Gloria is already counting down the days until she can watch another film on the big screen in her small town.