Hundreds of residents, owners, families, politicians and well-wishers turned out for the grand opening Friday.
Inside there were hors d’oeuvres, drinks, conversation and lots of flashing bulbs. Onstage The Shout Section Big Band belted out some swinging jazz numbers, and a few people danced.
The theater will be a rental house, and will bring in all different types of acts, Allison Orr, manager at the theater, told attendees.
“We’ll be able to really run the gamut,” Orr said.
In a separate interview she said shows would begin to be booked in the next few weeks, but on Friday, she was happy to have finally opened. Orr was all smiles as she greeted the crowd in front of the renovated venue, and began the countdown to light the marquee.
Orr said the theater needed revenue from shows before it could increase staffing. Right now she is the only staff member, and her position is part-time. She said as awareness of the theater increases, bookings will as well.
“Tonight is definitely a huge part of that,” she said.
Donations collected at the event totaled about $500, and will be applied to the cost of new seating, she said.
Over the course of the last year dozens of volunteers have worked on restoring the theater.
Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten said he volunteered a few times, and was doing some intricate painting in the lobby last week. He said the reason he has supported the theater all along was because he believed it was a great opportunity to help all the rest of the businesses downtown.
“I bet if you went to these restaurants around here, they’d say they had more business tonight, because of this,” Walsten said. “And when you bring in 600, 700 people for a concert, they’re going to come early, find a place to park, and go to a restaurant. It’s going to help the whole area.”