Local jewel The Ritz Theatre, along with several historical Georgia theatres, have begun to network together with the help of Atlanta giant The Fabulous Fox Theatre.
The Fox recently began a new organization called The Fox Theatre Institute. The Fox Theatre Institute has launched a pilot program, which will help historical theatres in Georgia successfully preserve and revitalize their arts programs to become cultural anchors of their communities, just like The Fox.
On July 18, at the League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT) conference, The Fox Theatre Institute will officially launch, “Thinking Outside the Fox”, which will celebrate the saving of The Fox Theatre and many other theatres across the state of Georgia and the United States.
Owner of the Ritz Theatre, Malcolm Neal said, “The Fox Theatre Institute is an off-shoot of The Fox Theatre, and they are basically offering guidance to historical theatres that are still in operation or are under renovation.”
The Fox Theatre Institute discovered a record of 374 historical theatres in Georgia, though 114 were demolished between 1950 and the present. Currently, there are an estimated 260 historic theatres in Georgia. For the past year, The Fox Theatre Institute has been working closely with 15 of the remaining 260 historic theatres in cities around Georgia including; Brunswick, Canton, Rome, Dahlonega, Fitzgerald, Athens, Marietta, Americus, Calhoun, Augusta, Macon, Statesboro and our very own, Thomaston.
“Nearly six months ago The Ritz was invited to be a founding member of the new program put on by The Fox Theatre Institute. Members of The Fox Theatre Institute have been to the Ritz and have really showed interest in its history and future. They really like what the Ritz Theatre is,” said Neal, “The Ritz is one of the few single show theatres left in Georgia. The majority of the historical theaters The Fox Institute is working with are live theatres.”
According to Neal, since that initial meeting six months ago, contacts have been made linking these historical theatres and The Fox Theatre Institute together, promising connections that will help small theatres like The Ritz to thrive.
The Fox Theatre Institute will create individualized plans for progress that will directly assist the theatres with their needs including: programming, preservation, community building, operations, and economic development. After this pilot program, The Institute will extend their services to other theatres that are seeking guidance.
“When you’re in a small town, its easy to lose contact with what's going on in the rest of the world, like theatre trends and such,” said Neal. “Being connected with other theatres and The Fox will help benefit us greatly. We will be able to shoot ideas off of one another, and learn from each others mistakes.”
As citizens of Thomaston and Upson County, we may not see any physical changes at The Ritz, although Neal still plans for a new marquee,.
“The Fox Theatre has a tremendous past,” said Neal. “From plans of demolition to renovation, The Fox Theatre has helped awaken that area of Atlanta. When it was renovated and reopened, it brought the people, stores and restaurants back, now that area is thriving. It just goes to show that sometimes you can’t let a place die, because businesses rub off on each other.
“It’s the early days of a great idea, and we will take full advantage of the generosity shown by The Fox Theatre Institute,” said a hopeful Neal