Local Group Hopes to Reopen Historic Garby Theatre

Jake Bauer

Jake Bauer

Published July 26, 2012 4:30 am
Local Group Hopes to Reopen Historic Garby Theatre

 title=CLARION, Pa. (EYT) — A determined group of local residents is working hard to raise awareness and restore the former Garby Theatre in Clarion.

We sat down with Clarion resident and Garby Theatre Project founder David Anthony and asked him a few questions about the group’s efforts to reopen the historic Main Street theatre.

Tell us about the Garby Theatre Project. What sparked the idea?

Let me start by sharing a bit about myself. I am not originally from Clarion. I was born and raised in Warren, Pa. I have many fond memories of going to the Struthers Library Theater in Warren. I moved to Clarion about 4 years ago and have seen the property — day in and day out — and wondered why it hasn’t been turned into a community theater prior to now. I first proposed the idea to Clarion Borough council two years ago in a letter that outlined several proposals. At that time, nothing was done. The idea was put on a shelf to collect dust. Since then I have read story after story of communities all across the country who have revitalized their downtown using a community theater. I finally started talking about the idea again about 4 months ago. Ron Wilshire was kind enough to invite me on his radio show to share the idea. After the show aired, I received calls about how others can help out. At that point, I decided to try to make the idea into a proposal. Our group met in March for the first time to see what kind of interest was there. The idea of the theater would be to purchase the property and renovate it back to the near original design of the Garby.

Video courtesy Ron Wilshire and Clarion Connection.

What type of shape in the building in? How much effort will it take to restore the building?

The years have not been kind to the Garby. The building would essentially have to be gutted and restored. The building is cut in half. (In 1983 the Garby was redesigned from one screen to two.) We will take advantage of this and use one side for fund raising activities while work is done on the other side.

Does any of the original equipment still work?

All of the equipment will have to be purchased for the facility. Thankfully programs are available, both in the private and public sector, in helping with this. The projector, seating, concession stand, and other items will have to be purchased.

If the Garby is re-opened, what type of movies do you hope to play?

Today’s Garby would be designed to show films and plays. It would also be used as a musical venue. The facility would be designed to place the focus on the local area to promote businesses, tourism, and community involvement. The Garby would be a permanent home for the Clarion Players. The films to be shown would be a collage of independent films, foreign films, classic, and children’s films. The idea would NOT be to compete with mainstream theaters. The focus would be on family and the local community. Program ideas include dinner and a show, children’s matinees during the summer, holiday specials such as horror films during Halloween, and Christmas films during the holiday season. The Garby Theatre will be for the entire Clarion area.

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How do you plan to fund the project?

The project will be funded through a combination of several sources. Starting immediately will be fund raising to get the property secured. Fund raising will include selling t-shirts with the slogan “I’m a Garby Groupie.” Another source being worked on is having a ‘forest of fame’ where a mural will be on the inside walls with leaves available for individuals or families to sponsor. The individual chairs in the theater would also be available for sponsorship. Another source involves the university students creating commercials for local businesses that could be shown at the theater, as well. On the larger scale side, we have teams working on grants through the CDBG funds and other public and private grants. One idea for a fundraising kick off is called “Raise the Garby, Raze the Shingles.” The shingles on the Garby will be auctioned off for a bonfire sometime soon. Details will be announced on that at a later point.

What type of reaction and support have you received from the public?

The support has been positive. We are always looking for more volunteers to help with fundraising and grant researching.

Where can people go to help donate to the cause?

The meetings are usually the first Thursday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at Michelle’s Cafe. We will have a bank account set up through Community First Bank for donations, and all are appreciated!

For more information, visit the Garby Theatre Project’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GarbyTheaterProject.

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