(Photos by Jill Seelmeyer)
The historic Kentucky Theater — which celebrates its 90th birthday this October — has received an early gift in the form of a fundraising campaign for needed renovations and upgrades.
Friends of the Kentucky Theater, nonprofit citizens group, has joined together with a goal to raise at least $1 million for renovations from donations through a charitable fund they established with the Blue Grass Community Foundation.
“This theater belongs to every person in this community, and in outlying regions,” said Isabel Yates, former Lexington Vice Mayor and co-chair of Friends of the Kentucky Theater. “It belongs to us all. We need to raise the money to make the needed improvements.”
Among the proposed updates, the “number one priority” is installing a new digital projector and sound system, which will cost about $250,000, said manager of the Kentucky Theater Fred Mills during a theater tour.
“We won’t be in business if this is not done. It’s not a matter of keeping up with the Joneses. We have to have this equipment to be able to show films,” Mills said.
Currently, the Kentucky Theater uses 35 millimeter film. Both Regal Cinemas at Hamburg and Cinemark Theater at Fayette Mall have already converted to the digital system, Mills said. He anticipates that sometime during 2013, movie companies will notify the Kentucky Theater that they will no longer release movies on film.
In addition to the digital system, other proposed upgrades include new carpet, updated lighting and lobby, concession and marquee repairs.
“I really feel quite confident that with the love that Lexingtonians and all Central Kentuckians have for the Kentucky Theater, that it will happen,” Mills said.
Proposed improvements with estimated cost:
• New digital project and sound system, $250,000
• New theater seats, $500,000
• New carpet, $30,000
• Update lighting (with LED bulbs), $500,000
• Repair Kentucky Theater Marquee, $75,000
• Lobby repairs, $25,000
• Concession stand updates, $35,000
If all needed renovations are made, costs could reach around $1.5 million, said project manager Harold Tate, Lexington architect. Tate said that these changes could be done in phases, with the digital projector being most important.
Mills said that even with the updates, they are working to “keep the integrity of the theater.”
A campaign kick off celebration, which is free open to the public will be held Oct. 10 at the Kentucky Theater.
“It will be a way to tell the whole community what we are trying to accomplish,” Yates said.
Contributions can be mailed to “Friends of Kentucky Theater” at 250 W. Main Street, #1220, Lexington, KY 40507.