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The future of Lebanon Square Part 2: Bringing the Capitol back to life
Sep 25, 2012 5:20 pm
Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on the revitalization of the Lebanon Town Square.
A neglected jewel in downtown Lebanon for decades, the Capitol Theatre on West Main Street is coming back to life, thanks to Bob and Pam Black.
The Capitol Theatre opened Dec. 9, 1949, and brought Lebanon citizens a place close by to experience the golden age of Hollywood. In fact, the first feature at the theatre was Betty Grable — in Technicolor. The theatre was a hit and for decades; it was the place to be in Lebanon.
With state-of-the-art projection, and decor that included marble floors, it was a classy place to bring a date for a movie. When Bob Black's vision is complete, the Capitol Theatre will once again be the place to be in Lebanon.
"We're fully engulfed in the renovation. We're moving forward," he said. "The marquee should be ready by the end of October, and we'll be able to relight it."
Even at this stage of the renovation, walking into the theatre is like a step back in time.
"It was opened in 1949, and everything as you walk into the theatre we hope to bring it back to the way it looked back then," Black said. "The concession stand will little bit different. Obviously we're going to upgrade that."
One of the most beautiful parts of the building is the terrazzo marble floor that is an art deco masterpiece - or it will be once the floor is repaired.
"We're trying to fix all the plugs and bring the terrazzo back to life," he said, explaining with a verbal grimace how the floor had been abused. "Somebody tried to put carpet over it. Every single place they tried to put a nail, it chipped the terrazzo. We'll have to sand and re-polish the whole floor."
The internal renovations include modern duct work for the heating and air conditioning. The plan is to make the theatre a multi-purpose use building. It will still have a theater with a projection room, but it will have flexible seating for parties and wedding groups to rent. Black said the sloping floor in the theater would be changed to tiered platforms that will allow for tables and party seating.
The theater will still be used for its original purpose, showing movies. In fact, someone who saw a movie there in the 1950s will feel right at home.
"We'll be having theme months and bring, say John Wayne, movies and run those every Friday and Saturdays for a month," Black explained. "We also will run classic Bob Hope/Bing Crosby 'Road' movies. We won't be opening first-run movies there."
Black's goal is to bring this classic theater back to life and allow people a chance to see a movie the way their grandparents did - with a little class.
"We want to keep the front of the theatre as close to the way it was as we can and still stay within codes," he said.
As to a time frame, that remains to be seen with the idea to take as much time as needed to get the job done right.
"You never know what the contractors will run into," Black added. "We've stripped it down in a lot of places."
Some of that stripping has brought out parts of the theatre that were preserved by being hidden. At the top of the lobby there is a blue wall painted with art deco fish that is a work of art all by itself.
If the stars align, Black hopes to have the project completed around March. He also plans to make the Capitol Theatre a place for more than just parties and movies.
"The concession stand will have a coffee and sandwich shop in it," he said. "We want to open it up so people can enjoy time there early in the morning for coffee and for lunch."
He also plans to bring a priceless bit of the past back to life for the enjoyment of everyone in Lebanon and beyond.
"That's our goal and our dream, and we committed ourselves to getting it done," Black said, adding that in reaching that goal he thinks he will be helping a lot of people relive pleasant memories.
There hasn't been a day that goes by when I'm at the theatre on a Saturday or Sunday when someone hasn't come by and sat there and told me stories about the theatre and the movies they seen there and how it affected their lives," he said.
Black feels the Capitol Theatre is a treasured part of Lebanon and, bad carpet aside, has been revered by natives.
"You see all of those glass cases out front and the window for the ticket booth? It's been vacant for 32 years, can you think of any other place where the glass has not been broken? Black asked.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or via email at email@example.com.
CAp theatre Photo: Dallus Whitfield
David Judkins replaces the lettering on the marquee of the Capitol Theatre on West Main Street recently. The marquee had to be rewired and when repairs are complete will have about 1,000 lights.