Hogansville gets peek at renovations to historic Royal Theater

Published 9:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2023

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Hogansville’s historic Royal Theater has been a main staple of the town’s charm since 1933. Through the years, the building has seen growth and change much like its citizens. As people adapt and evolve, the Royal Theater is getting its chance to evolve and relive its glory days.

On Tuesday, the city hosted a preview of the renovations currently happening at the theater.

“We are so excited. It’s been a long time coming,” Interim City Manager Lisa Kelly said. “We’ve been working on these plans for years. The key was getting city hall out of this building, so we could get it down to the bones and get an architect to work in here and show all of our citizens how serious we are about opening this building back up as an operational theater.”

During the event, guests had the chance to walk through the building in its current state. The building has been gutted out.

Event attendee Camille Woods said is glad to see the theater being renovated.

“I remember coming here watching movies as a kid with my family,” Woods said. “Seeing it now as an adult feels like I’m stepping back to the past, but it does my heart good to see something so important to my town come back in a big way.”

Event attendee Candy Chase said the Royal Theater holds a special place in her family’s history.

“Growing up, I was always told stories about the theater and how it was where my grandparents first met,” Chase said. “Being here in person and seeing not only the town’s history but my own was cool.”

Gene Dunwody, the architect of the project, said the renovations have been going well.

“The very first thing we do is all the demolition drawings. Then, we put that out for bid and select a contractor that will come in, peel everything back and see where we are,” Dunwody said. “The demolition contractors are almost wrapped up and we’ve completed the drawings today. We turn those drawings into EDA and they’ll review them, come back and bless it. From there, we’ll take the drawings and make any changes that need to be made and put the project out for bid.”

Dunwody said he expects construction to begin by May.

Kelly, whose office was located inside the theater for 17 years, said to be back in the building and to see its progress is eye-opening.

“To see all this architecture in here and to know that we’re going to get to relive it —it’s just amazing,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the long-term goal of the theater is for it to be a fully multifunctional theater. The theater, which historically could hold over 700 guests, will be toned down to hold 400, Kelley said.

She said the theater will be able to show movies, have a full performance stage, have space for meeting rooms, movable seating for dinner theater, conferences and more.

Councilman Michael Taylor Jr. said to see the plans for the theater come to fruition was amazing.

“Growing up, I didn’t know what the theater looked like, but I remember the council chambers being here,” Taylor said. “I didn’t even think it was this big — to come in here and see the pre-demolition work is just, it’s eye-opening. I’m excited to see what the theater is going look like when it’s constructed next year.”

Councilman Mark Ayers said he was surprised at the size of the theater.

“When we were first talking about renovating the theater almost four years ago, I never expected that we would have more than 50 or 60 people in there watching,” Mark said. “I had no idea that this much space would be in here. It looks great and I can’t wait for it to be finished.”

Mayor Jake Ayers said he thinks the newly renovated theater will be a staple for downtown.

“There’s a lot of history in this building, most before any of our time but to resurrect a building like this, as well as hopefully bring back some of the historic monumental things that were going on here, will be a huge tool moving forward to bring more people here,” Jake said. “This will be a huge thing. I think the theater will set Hogansville apart in a big way.”