The Ritz Theatre is saved!

By Larry Stanford

March 26, 2014

Saturday was an historic day for The Ritz Theatre. Not only was there a showcase of outstanding young talent Saturday afternoon at the ‘A Star Is Born’ fund raiser, but the event crowned a two-year effort to raise the funds needed to purchase a digital project for The Ritz. So not only was a star born Saturday afternoon, but new life was given to the historic Ritz Theatre. For photos of the young entertainers taking part in ‘A Star Is Born,’ see page 6A.

James Gillespie, President of UC3 (Upson County Concerned Citizens), the non-profit group that has been working hand-in-hand with The Ritz to raise the funds needed for the projector, made the following statement Saturday:

“The historic Ritz Theatre on the courthouse square in downtown Thomaston will have a new lease on life as the necessary funds have been raised to enable the purchase of a digital projector, new bright screen and associated equipment. The Ritz Theatre and the Upson County Concerned Citizens (UC3) group have been actively working for about two years to save the Ritz from closing as film studios have discontinued distributing movies on 35mm film. Now, just about every release is sent to theatres on a special encoded hard drive which provides the picture and sound to a digital projection system. Forced with imminent closure due to lack of film, Malcolm and Amy Neal, owners of the Ritz, have chosen to transfer some of the funds set aside to renovate the marquee into the Ritz Digital Projection fund. A new marquee is needed, but there is not much point in having a great new marquee on a closed theatre, so the marquee fund will be started up again once the new projector is installed and the future of the Ritz is secure.

“With funds from both UC3 and the Ritz, and modifications to the original equipment plan, a Christie Digital Projection system with a new level of Dolby sound plus the required new screen, will be installed within the next few weeks. The equipment and technical installation has become possible at this time because manufacturers, dealer and installers came together to keep costs at a minimum to make it happen.

“Benefits abound with digital projection at the Ritz, not the least of which is that the theatre can remain open. A better picture, more expansive sound and the ability to show other alternative programming comes with these upgrades.

“This would not have been possible without the kind and generous help of movie lovers from Upson and surrounding counties. The members of UC3 have given countless hours and assistance in raising funds through their many and various activities. Also, because of those who have donated directly to the Ritz, now combined with the UC3 funds, the digital projection system at the Ritz will become a reality.

“A celebration and open house is being arranged and will be announced soon.

“A special thanks to all who have helped over these past two years. Together we “Saved the Ritz.”

Larry Stanford can be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7