Jefferson Theater Sold; Renovations Planned

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

June 16, 2006

A historic fixture on the Downtown Mall is shutting it's doors and changing owners, but it's not gone forever.

The Jefferson Theater should be closed for renovation for about a year. We may not see it showing $3 movies, but the new owner is making many improvements.

"Just more activity, more concerts, more maybe daytime events where people can come in and have a party or a wedding, or whatever, but it will be more beautiful and more functional under his tenure," said Hawes Spencer who is selling the theater.

Hawes Spencer bought the theater a foreclosure auction. Now, 14 years later he is selling it to prominent businessman and music promoter Coran Capshaw because of his plans to preserve the history.

"Someone who wasn't going to turn it into condos or office space or something like that," said Spencer.

Built in 1912 out of the shell of a bank building, it began hosting vaudeville and silent films and performers included Houdini, the Three Stooges and preacher Billy Sunday. In the 1960's it changed name to the Cinema.

"Due to its propensity to show what we might call 'blue movies,' people started calling it the Skinema," Spencer added.

It became a discount theater in the mid 80's, which is is today. The building itself has some real history that dates back to the time of segregation.

"You can really take in the history because you can see how the white women had this big beautiful bathroom downstairs and the black women had this tiny nook," said Spencer

These bathrooms as well as most of the theater is being preserved. There are possible plans to tear out the second level theater and use those seats as a balcony, which would restore its original design.

Once open there will be a movie component, but the venue is also expected to have live entertainment.

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