Final push for Royal Theater

Published 10:45 am Friday, May 31, 2024

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Hogansville’s historic Royal Theater received $75,000 from Fox Gives to finish the landmark’s restoration. This is the third round of grant funding from the Fox Theater Foundation, Fox Gives. 

A crowd of politicians, theater workers, Fox representatives and members of the community got the opportunity to walk around the theater at the check ceremony. Construction is still underway, and the funding will be used to finish the restoration of the theater.

“We are really excited that the city was behind the project as well as the community and had a lot of good public partnerships,” said Leigh Burns, the Director of Community Partnerships for the Fox Theater. “But we’re always interested in helping communities grow economically, and media, going to theater really does build that.”

The Royal Theater and Hogansville were ideal candidates for the grant due to the community involvement, according to Burns. 

“There’s so much support from the mayor, from the council, from the team at city hall, everyone in this community really stood up and said, ‘We want this back. We want it to happen.’…These things don’t always happen. And it’s so encouraging to see so many people in the community have been involved in this project,” Burns said. 

The anticipated completion date of the construction is in August, with the first performances hoping to debut in November. The Royal will show movies, as it did back in the 1930s, along with live performances. 

According to the city manager, Lisa Kelly, the theater was built in 1937 as a movie house. Kelly smiled as she remembered hearing all the stories from friends and family about the theater. She pointed in the direction of the stage saying her mother had a piano recital there. 

“We want to make it something for everybody,” Kelly said. “We wanted to do jazz festivals, a classic movie series…something that will get everybody in the doors.” 

The theater acted as a city hall for many years after closing theater productions. In 1988 city hall was moved down the street, and the effort to return the Royal to operation began.

“It has been on our radar for over twenty years to get this building restored and back functioning as a theater,” Kelly said.  

The organization works to restore, and give operational support and education outreach to performing arts venues around the state of Georgia. Since the grant program started in 2008, Fox Gives has awarded $3.2 million which supported almost 20,000 jobs in the local communities. 

“This is [Fox Theater’s] way to pay it forward, like how we were saved in the seventies,” Burns said. 

Hogansville received three of the grants from the foundation. The first was for the Historic Structures Studies & Planning Grant in FY 2017-2018 for $29,125. It was followed by two Preservation Grants, one for 51,000 the following year. The last was the $75,000 given to the theater at a ceremony on Thursday held in the building lobby. The total amount of grants awarded to the Royal Theater is $155,375.

“The community now won’t have to go to Columbus, they won’t have to go to Newnan, they can have entertainment right here in Hogansville,” Burns said.