Springfield breathes new life into an old landmark - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Springfield breathes new life into an old landmark

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A Coastal Empire community hopes what started as a grassroots effort to restore a 1940s theater will ultimately draw people back to town and businesses into the city. 

The Mars Theatre hasn't shown a movie since 1957, but thanks to the Springfield Revitalization Corporation and the city, that's about to change. 

"Sooner or later we'll have something that will appeal to everyone," said Tommy Deadwyler 

Deadwyler is the Director of Cultural Affairs at the Mars Theatre and is relatively new to the project.  He joined the team last October, but the SRC and the City of Springfield have been working to restore the old movie house since before 2007.

Deadwyler has experience in theatre restoration and booking. He runs a program for the Fox Theatre Institute that works with 40 different performing arts centers across the state to book the best to come to Georgia. 

In his few months here, he's already noticed an impact the renovations have had to Laurel Street, including a new sandwich shop, Daisy's, the only one on the street.

"She saw what was happening with the Mars, and they thought it was good time to start something that they were excited about," said Deadwyler.

"The Mars Theatre was where it was at!" squeeled Tinkie Porter.

She got her first kiss at the Mars in its heyday. She now runs a business next door and is excited about the comeback too.

"I love the theater," she said. "It was a treat for us to come to the theater and buy some 10 cent popcorn, 5 cent Coke."

Wednesday was delivery day. 

Two hundred and thirty new seats were delivered, costing $405 each.

Deadwyler said they're paying for quality that will last. 

"We priced seats, and there are more expensive ones, so we went with these, and they're American made and a little wider for a comfortable experience. We didn't want to just pack people in here; the seats are a little wider so you'll actually like sitting in here."

The theater is equipped with two different sound systems: one for live performances and one for the digital performances that will be shown. 

Even though they don't have film anymore like they did in the 50's, they will still use the old projection room for old movies and new. 

The first movie to be shown at the new Mars Theatre is going to be a first release movie, The Amazing Spiderman 2.

Springfield City Manager Brett Bennett said the city stepped in to help the SRC when the economy took a turn and donations dropped. 

"We're trying to pull people back downtown in all kinds of ways, by making improvements in streetscapes, but this theater we think is going to be the shot in the arm it really needs." said Bennett. "I've lived here all my life and never known it to be a theater, so I think the younger folks like me are excited in that respect."

So far donations and city money total about $1 million, but the director and past theater-goers think the experience is priceless.

"Small towns can create a cultural environment through the arts, and the arts can revitalize a downtown," said Deadwyler.

Opening weekend is April 25th, and a full weekend of concerts and activities is planned for the grand opening celebration, including Grammy-nominated artists The Greencards, who will take the stage April 25 at 8 p.m.

The Greencards have toured with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan and are often labeled as part of, and said to be representative of, the Newgrass movement, they draw from Irish folk music, gypsy music, rock and roll, folk, and Latin American musical styles.

The Springfield Revitalization Corporation will hold its fourth annual Mars Theatre Benefit Bike Ride on April 26, which begins at the theatre at 8 a.m.

Riders will be able to choose from 18, 37, or 65-mile courses, and all proceeds will help support the continued efforts of the theatre.

For more information on the theater, be sure to check out their website.

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