The Fox Theater in Atlanta is easily the most famous and some would say fabulous theater in Georgia. Other cities boast magnificent venues like the Springer Opera House in Columbus, the Grand Opera House in Macon, and the Lucas Theatre in Savannah.
Many of Georgia’s smaller towns and cities point with pride to their own versions of the Fox Theater.
In cities throughout Georgia, heroic preservation efforts have kept theaters alive and safe from wrecking balls. Several of those, like the Morton in Athens, the Douglass in Macon and the Liberty in Columbus began as historically black theaters.
Here are a few facts and memories of six local versions of the Fox Theater.
The State Theatre, Albany
The December 5, 1942 edition of Box Office magazine noted, “The new State Theatre in Albany, Georgia, is impressive both in size and appearance. Modernly designed, its façade combines monolithic concrete with gleaming structural glass to achieve a striking invitational appeal.” A photo accompanying the article revealed that the State was “scientifically cooled.” The State is now used as venue for musical groups.
There are many more important theaters in Georgia, such as the Georgia Theater in Athens and the Rylander in Americus. I couldn’t cover them all so send me your memories of your favorite picture show. – Doug The Zebulon Theater, Cairo
There are many more important theaters in Georgia, such as the Georgia Theater in Athens and the Rylander in Americus. I couldn’t cover them all so send me your memories of your favorite picture show. – Doug
The Zebulon has been in continuous use since 1935. A non-profit organization now operates the Zebulon. The theater presents movies and theatrical productions by the Syrup City Players. Mantinee admission is $4. Soft drinks and popcorn are $2 each. I stood outside the Zebulon for an hour or two in December waiting for the sun to fade away and the Christmas lights to twinkle. Passersby stopped and chatted and each had a sentimental story about the Zebulon. I thought I was living a serial from The Saturday Evening Post.
The Austin Theater, Fort Valley
The Austin survived a fire that hit two downtown businesses in 1973, a tornado in 1975, and several years as a Top Dollar Store. A local option sales tax in 2004 sparked the Austin’s return to grandeur. Voters approved $500,000 for its restoration. Weddings, receptions and parties are held in the Austin. Columbus State University players present annual children’s theater productions. The Fort Valley Arts Alliance operates the facility.
The Muse Theatre, Perry
The Muse is the only former theater in this series that has not been brought back to life. The Muse Theatre Foundation hopes to change that soon. A member of the foundation saved the building from foreclosure and possible destruction. An antique business is now filling the space temporarily. Billy Milby, president of the foundation, said fundraising efforts will recommence as soon as the group receives its non-profit status from the IRS. Plans for the renovated structure include screening movies, housing performances and providing event space. Milby believes a restored Muse can help spur new life for downtown Perry.
Theatre Dublin, Dublin
During my childhood, Theatre Dublin was known as the Martin Theatre, part of a chain that also included the State in Albany. I was sitting in the Martin one Sunday afternoon in 1963 when a murmur spread across the audience: “Oswald’s been shot!” In 1963 there was one ticket window for white patrons and a separate window for blacks. Whites sat in the lower level and blacks in the balcony. Theatre Dublin is a highly successful performance venue with acts from country music to Bach. It anchors a revitalized area of downtown Dublin. (A future post will look closely at the renaissance that has occurred in downtown Dublin.)
The Liberty Theatre, Columbus
Built in 1925 the Liberty was not only the largest theater in Columbus, it was the city’s only black theater. The list of performers who have entertained Liberty audiences is impressive: Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Ma Rainey (a Columbus native), Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Fletcher Henderson. The Liberty is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was restored in 1996.
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