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2017 A Critical Year for The Appalachian Theatre

The Appalachian Theatre on Wednesday morning. Photo by Ken Ketchie

By John Cooper and Jim Deal, ATHC Board Members 

The Appalachian Theatre reconstruction project is a labor of love and source of pride for all the stakeholders working on the famous motion picture palace with its celebrated vaudeville stage, which is a cornerstone in our region’s cultural heritage. With the facade and landmark marquee now restored to their 1938 glory, the High Country’s first Art Deco building has completed the first phase of its renovation… just in time for the holiday season.

Newcomers to our region should note that our beloved civic theater closed in 2007 after nearly sixty years of operation. After private redevelopment efforts stalled, the theater was purchased by the town of Boone in November 2011 and then sold to the newly-formed Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (ATHC) in July 2013, which repaid the entire purchase price, plus interest, to take ownership and assume responsibility for the project.


Photo courtesy ATHC
Photo courtesy ATHC

In the intervening three years, ATHC conducted focus sessions with civic and business leaders, user groups, and interested citizens, all of which provided a dynamic vision of what was needed in a “state of the art” facility. A regional search process for an architectural design firm with experience in both the renovation and restoration of historic theatres led to the hiring of Raleigh-based Clearscapes. A campaign cabinet was formed and enough funds were donated to complete the first phase of the project: the facade and marquee, now known as “The Blue Ridge Energy Marquee.”

As previously noted in the media, ATHC plans to follow up phase one with the rest of the theater’s construction, but only in a fiscally-responsible manner. We don’t yet have all the money in hand — either in cash or pledges — necessary to execute the next phase of the project. To date, nearly $7 million has been raised, close to a preliminary estimate of costs announced in June 2015. Since that time, construction costs have continued to rise, and ATHC will not know the exact goal until the final phase is bid out for contracts in the coming year.

A second phase will include the lobby and public spaces, including the community room on the second level of the theatre. Doing so now will allow ATHC to complete that portion of the project at current construction prices and keep the momentum moving forward while funds are identified for the largest phase of the project, construction of a new stage house, which would triple the size of the stage while adding an orchestra pit, backstage dressing rooms, and production support areas.

Potential programming at the reopened theater will include live music, opera, local theater productions, small-scale Broadway shows, dance, digital cinema, children’s art festivals and film festivals. The community room and spacious lobby areas offer meeting and event space for functions such as weddings, fundraisers, and galas.

An independent study conducted by the Center of Economics Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) analyzed and quantified the economic impacts that are projected to accrue to the region from the operations of the ATHC. “The Theatre is expected to host 200 events per year. Of these, 60 will be considered destination draws such as live music or theater.”

The study predicts that the direct spending by visitors and residents who attend Theatre events rather than travel elsewhere for entertainment to be approximately $3 million per year which, in turn, circulate throughout the regional economy resulting in a total economic activity increase of $4.5 million annually. This activity would generate an estimated 53 new full time equivalent jobs with total additional labor earnings of $1.4 million per year. “These results demonstrate that the potential economic impacts attributable to the Theatre are quite large for our market,” concluded the study.

2017 is a critical year for The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country.

While the winter months are typically a slow time for fundraising, ATHC expects public campaign activity will kick in to high gear this spring. Tax deductible contributions and pledges large and small are welcome, and ATHC is accepting gifts made in honor or in memory of a loved one. Donations for the theater restoration can be accepted at savetheapptheatre.com or by mail to PO Box 11 DTS, Boone, NC 28607.

A successful fundraising effort in 2017 could lead to a grand re-opening in 2018. Please help us restore this venerable landmark to its former glory.