Franklin Theatre/Franklin, TN

McClatchy-Tribune Regional News – Sun Journal

March 9, 2011 Wednesday


FRANKLIN — So far, the exterior of the Franklin Theatre has drawn the spotlight — literally, in fact — as a replica Art Deco neon marquee was hoisted into place over the Main Street movie house.

Yet behind all the public attention drawn to the theater in the past few months, designers, electricians and an artist have been quietly remaking the inside of what was once an aging, scruffy theater into an $8.7 million venue supporters hope becomes a destination point for performers and artists.

"There’s a lot of details being added as we speak," said Aubrey Preston, interim theater director. "It’s kind of like Christmas has come, and we’re able to open the present."

The theater, which will show movies and feature live performances, is slated to open June 3 and being showing movies on June 4. The June 3 opening could feature a party themed around the 1939 movie Gone With The Wind, though final details haven’t been set, he said.

"Gone With the Wind is one of the things we’re thinking about," Preston said. "We’re pushing multiple things around."

What’s old is new again

While Preston and others finalize plans for the theater and its operation, work in the theater is near the final stages.

Just through new wood and glass front doors, the changes in the theater are evident. A new terrazzo floor covers the lobby — though the floor is still covered by cardboard to protect it from scuffs. A ticket-takers’ box has been built, as well as a new refreshment stand, which will sell wine and beer.

In the theater, muted light glows in the frosted glass sconces on the walls. Once bare, the theater now has four arches, and the new walls have been repainted crimson and gold. Pale color choices have been ditched for more traditional and richer Art Deco-inspired colors.

Though designers have taken pains to restore the theater, the new color scheme is a departure from how the theater looked when it opened in 1937 during the height of the Art Deco design movement. It has been closed since 2007.

"The theater was not the opulent type of Art Deco theater," said Leiper’s Creek Gallery owner Lisa Fox, who has helped with color choices for the theater. "It was more streamlined and simplified. (The restored theater) does have a different look and feel than it did before, but it does feel like Franklin. It feels like it fits."

Ceiling has nighttime sky painting

On the theater’s second floor, some of the differences between the old and the remade theater are evident in little and big ways.

The theater’s balcony has been added. While most of the theater’s 350 new seats have not been installed yet, the ones in the new balcony are in place, and are a far cry from the frayed and broken ones that were once here.

To raise money to support the theater’s renovation, sponsorship of 125 theater seats for $2,500 each is offered through the theater’s owners at the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. Sponsors have been found for 225 seats.

Preston said sponsorship of the seats is still available. He is still pursuing another potential large donor to help cover a reserve fund for the theater.

"We hope to be done by opening day," Preston said.

Other touches are smaller. Just off the main second floor hallway in the upstairs lounge, landscape painter Roger Dale Brown is in the midst of work on a roughly 10-by-10 oil painting of a night-time sky on the room’s ceiling.

Brown’s work has won national awards and is featured in the collections of corporations and celebrities.

Brown worked with Fox to come up with the night-time "sky scape" with moons and stars against a purple and black background. Fox represents Brown at her gallery.

"They’ve done such a beautiful job with creating a lot of glitz and glamour in here. … What better way to cap that off?" Brown said. "The best light show in the world is up there."

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