Telethon Raises Over $140,000 to Restore Tennessee Theatre

Telethon Raises Over $140,000 to Restore Tennessee Theatre

June 1, 2003

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The Volunteer state has lived up to its name once again, donating over $140,000 to the restoration of the Tennessee Theatre.

The Mighty Wurlitzer played a medley of songs from the Kern and Hammerstein musical "Showboat," before the theatre closed Sunday night as a $20 million restoration project begins. The theatre is scheduled to reopen in January 2005.

Nearly 1,200 people came to watch "Showboat" at the theatre, originally built as a movie palace in 1928, Sunday night while the telethon took place.

East Tennessee donated $146,102 Sunday. More than $12,000 of that total was donated by the people in the theatre.

A total of $14 million was raised prior to the telethon, from public and private sources. Bruce Hartmann, president of the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, says $4 million came from the City of Knoxville, $3 million from Knox County, $1.1 million from the federal government, and $5.9 million from individuals, foundations and corporations.

Bill Snyder, fund-raising campaign chairman, says the renovation includes a stage extension, balcony reconstruction, acoustical solutions and adjacent property acquisitions. "With the stage extension and backstage renovations, the Tennessee will be able to mount better and bigger productions, from touring shows to local productions, such as those performed by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville Opera."

Other improvements include new seats and restoring the lobbies and auditorium to their original splendor. Also:

  • A loading area and 9 1/2 by 25-foot scenery lift, capable of stopping on all backstage levels, located at the southeast corner of the building facing State Street. State Street will be reconfigured to allow for sidewalks and two lanes of traffic, one of which will always be open during loading hours.
  • A new indoor ticket booth in the south end of the Gay Street vestibule area with two service windows inside and one window accessible from outside. The existing outdoor ticket booth will be restored and used only as needed.
  • Major restroom expansions on the lounge level.
  • An elevator to service all three public levels – lounge, main and balcony – located in the center of the foyer area. A second elevator for performers and backstage visitors will be located in the northeast corner of the building.
  • A redesigned concession area in the main lobby to better serve patrons and a new concession area located on the downstairs lounge level.
  • All new plumbing, improved lobby and auditorium lighting, and new stage lighting and sound equipment.

Construction on the renovation begins July 1st.

The Tennessee Theatre is still accepting donations for the restoration. Send tax-deductible contributions in the form of a check to the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, PO Box 272, Knoxville, TN 37902. Volunteer opportunities also exist, email or call 865-673-9613.

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