Kentucky Heritage Council
Historic State Theater of Elizabethtown grand reopening events slated May 8-10
Newly rehabilitated and expanded facility features event space, performance venues
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – Dark for more than 25 years, the lights of the State Theater in Elizabethtown will soon shine brightly again following an extensive rehabilitation and revitalization project. Once the centerpiece of downtown and the entertainment center of the region, the theater has been empty since 1982. Now the new Historic State Theater Complex is the cornerstone project of Elizabethtown’s Kentucky Main Street/Renaissance on Main program. The public will have a chance to see and celebrate all the changes during events planned May 8-10.
The theater opened June 11, 1942 with a showing of the movie The Fleet's In starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. Today, working to preserve original elements, painstaking effort has gone into the restoration of the theater in authentic detail down to the colors of paint on the walls, restoring original murals and matching and repairing original tile work. New construction of adjacent facilities features a black-box theater with seating capacity of 120 and the First Federal Gallery exhibit area and meeting space.
“To tell the story of a theater built in the 1940s, closed in the ‘80s, and now coming back to life not only as a theater but as a modern, multi-purpose event space is of great interest to countless people across the state and region,” according to Dana Beth Lyddan, executive director of the Elizabethtown Heritage Council and the theater complex.
Located at 209 West Dixie Avenue, the building is one of the few remaining Art Deco theaters in the state that have been restored to period appearance. Constructed of brick, the building has significant features including a large marquee, neon signs and stepped roof parapet, which are typical of Art Deco theater architecture of the late 1930s and ‘40s. The original theater housed approximately 950 two-toned cushioned metal seats including the balcony area.
The theater will seat 650 when it reopens Mother’s Day weekend. The surviving “courting seats,” which allow two people to sit together, loveseat-style, are being refurbished, while the rest of the seats will be brand new.
“It has been a major goal of ours to make it look as close to the original as possible…and that was not an easy task,” Lyddan said, adding, while some things will remain the same, some things are going to be significantly better. “Originally, the State Theater served only as a place to see a movie but now it will have the capability for live theatrical shows, concerts, lectures, even live video teleconferencing. Also, state-of-the-art video and audio equipment have been installed for the best entertainment experience possible.”
Funding for the project came from a Kentucky Main Street / Renaissance on Main program grant, revenue from the local restaurant tax and a fundraiser at the theater, as well as the city of Elizabethtown and state and federal funds.
The last film to be shown at the theater was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and there are plans to feature that Steven Spielberg classic once again. “We’re strongly considering having it as the first film to be shown on our new screen,” Lyddan said. “It has a significance of starting right where we left off. People seem to like that idea.”
To commemorate the grand reopening, the Elizabethtown Heritage Council is asking individuals with memories of their experiences at the theater to email them so these can be documented and shared with others. Stories may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about grand reopening events is available at www.historicstatetheater.org or by calling 270-234-8258.
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An agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Kentucky Heritage Council / State Historic Preservation Office is responsible for the identification, protection and preservation of prehistoric resources and historic buildings, sites and cultural resources throughout the Commonwealth, in partnership with other state and federal agencies, local communities and interested citizens. This mission is integral to making communities more livable and has a far-ranging impact on issues as diverse as economic development, jobs creation, affordable housing, tourism, community revitalization, environmental conservation and quality of life. www.heritage.ky.gov